how to make Pitch away from house,replace grass w/ something else

dinosaur1(5)April 9, 2010


I was thinking of putting some more dirt to the left of my patio because it's pretty low so the rain flows away from my home. I wanted to raise the pitch by grading the soil away from the house. What is the best way to do this?

Afterwards I wanted to get rid of the grass and then either apply mulch or pebbles around the entire area and place some stepping stones to my cement patio so it looks more appealing...good idea or leave the grass?

Any suggestions?

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iris_gal(z9 CA)

I don't understand about raising the level. Do you want to raise the dirt level of the flower bed next to the house and gradually slope it to the end of the patio? Is water pooling in the existing grass? Will adding dirt raise the area above the patio edge?

Will mulch with stepping stones improve the look? It will change the contrast of grass to concrete. Without plantings it will still be stark.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 2:05AM
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When it rains alot we don't want the water to go towards our home basically........ Water isn't pooling. Adding dirt will raise the area above the patio edge yes.....

Were you thinking I should add mulch and get rid of the grass in this area and just add stepping stones? I have planting against my home so I wouldn't want to add plantings close to the spruces.

let me know, thanks!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 10:01AM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

Thanks for responding dinosaur. It's more about what you want!

I'm looking at your picture and I see a 20-inch or so bed against the house bordered by large white rocks. If this dirt area is raised it will be against the siding of the house. Which would not be desirable. Or were you thinking of leaving this bed as is? Myself, I would like it
curved. I'd like something with height beside the sliding door and 3-4' perrenials or dwarf shrubs under the window. But this can be done later if desired.

It sounds like what you really want to do is remove the lawn (no more mowing) and have a slope to the evergreens.

I don't see adding dirt as desirable or necessary. Raising the level above the patio will invite dirt being washed onto it during rains.

To change from lawn to a non-growing alternative the top 2-3 inches of lawn could be scalped off, using a level to make sure it slopes downwards to the lovely opposite evergreens. The grass roots do take up water and mulch won't. You may have already thought of that. Now you can place your stepping stones and spread the filler of your choice (which will be deeper closer to the evergreens). If you use pebbles 2" removal - if using bark chips 3" removal. Be prepared with grass killer in future years as seeds will sprout.

Does this achieve what you want? What problems do you foresee? Where to put the removed sod?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 8:06PM
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iris gal

Would it be better to pitch the dirt away starting from underneath the siding? We could also place something like a river rock instead of mulch around our much better would that help our situation so water cannot easily get into our basement?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 8:34PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Here's a clickable link to your photos:

You're worried about water, but you haven't said why. Perhaps a neighbor has a problem, and you're trying to avoid the same damages? Perhaps you've got a sump pump that's constantly coming on, and you're worried about it, so you're trying to channel the discharge away from the house via that black pipe? Or perhaps it's something else.

Different problems have different solutions. So first you'll need to identify your problem or problems.

I'm not a pro or an expert, so until one shows up I'll refer you to this site, which is simply the first I found that seems to cover the basic drainage problems that can result in home water damage:

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 9:45PM
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When we have heavy rain I get water along the lines on the SW corner of my rec rooms baseboards. Is it alot? No. Is the carpet wet along the baseboards? Yes.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 9:53PM
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Hi dinasaur1

You are already too high near the house and are inviting other problems too. Serious problems after a few freezes with this condition. Your rec room is on the first floor or in the basement? If it the ground level it could be another problem but judging from the photos it is because your garden against the house is to high. It looks like your house is built on a slab on grade and your beds are as high as the slab (or the top of your foundation) so in heavy rains the water is pooling up and seeping under the sill seal. The seal is supposed to help prevent this but most are garbage anyway.

You need to apply a waterproof membrane and install a footing drain if you are going to keep it that high. The water on the grass would have to be about 8" high to seep into your house unless your rec room is in the basement and then a footing drain should be installed by a professional.

The other possibility is that the drip edge on the roof was installed improperly and the water is running down the inside of the exterior wall hitting the sill plate and following the path of least resistance into your rec room. Does it smell like someone peed in that corner?

A footing drain would be an easier and more effective method than what you are suggesting which I am certain will not resolve you issues.

I can post some instructions if you are a DIYer. Check the drip edge first. It is a little strip of metal that is installed under the first course of shingle and over the back of the gutter. I really suspect that it is the garden though.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 4:09AM
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Our rec room is in the basement. We have poured basement walls. I checked the basement floor joists to see if water was coming in from the top of the sill. There is no water residue or discoloration on the floor joists. We think that the water is coming in at the corner of where the cement patio begins against the house. Too much water must be seeping in directly at this corner under the cement patio.

Will adding 3-4 bags of dirt help to pitch the water away from this corner?

Or do we need a footing drain at this corner?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 5:12PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

When there's water on the patio, which direction(s) does it flow, and where does it exit the patio? The problem could be the pitch of the patio.

You might also check the joint between the patio and the house, to see if the patio might have settled, or if the joint needs new caulk.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 6:16PM
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The cement patio slab section against the house is caulked all the way across.
The patio slab faces west. Visibly the patio has no gaps / stress cracks / looks level. The patio slab looks like a prefab cement patio the builder had dropped off.
My gut feeling is the ground below the prefab cement patio slab wasn't graded leading to water build up at the north east corner of the slab clogging the drain tile directly below. This might be causing a slow leak along the basement floor ( leak = 3 in wide by 20 in wide).
Unknown to my eye the patio slab might even be pitched/settling due to ground movement towards the north east slab corner, but it doesn't look like it.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 8:47PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

If the caulk isn't cracked, then I assume the slab hasn't settled any appreciable amount. To find out how it's pitched, you could pour water very slowly in the middle of the slab and see where it goes.

[Prefab slab patios? Wouldn't most of them break in shipping?]

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 10:14PM
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Will adding 3-4 bags of dirt help to pitch the water away from this corner?

Unfortunately it probably won't. If anything removing dirt would be a better Idea especially if the additional soil will raise the hight over the top of the patio slab which appears to be at the same height of the foundation.

The water would only becoming over the top of the sill if it were the drip edge problem and would come into the main floor before it found it's way to the basement. It is most likely coming between the sill seal and foundation so the floor joists would never get wet and the sill would only get wet if it came in between the seal and the sill.

I would start experimenting with some heavy poly, rubber membrane (preferred) or tarps and check the items that MTO has suggested although at this point I would not caulk as the patio slap is part of the problem. Cutting the slab back from the house will be a more appropriate fix.

The first thing I would try is taping some poly to the house just above all the wall penetrations (dryer vents etc.) to the outer edge of the garden. Hold it to the patio slab with a two sided "tape". There are asphalt type adhesives that would be easy to remove and won't leave a residue or you could just lay down a sill seal with the poly on top and hold it with a 2x held down with some of tour patio stones.

Seepage over the foundation is what I would be hoping for if it was my home because installing a footing drain on a full basement is going to be very expensive. It is not really a DIY project.

Afte a bit longer observation of your pictures I am convinced that the grade of the garden and patio slab are the problems.

Is there a way to post an image directly to the GW message or do they have to be hosted on an external site?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 10:08AM
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    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 10:26AM
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I always thought when making a pitch away from the house that the dirt should be right under the siding of the house and then pitched down....right now I have dirt and then mulch above that as the photo you are thinking that this is too high? Does mulch make matters worse? I was thinking of placing something like rock pebbles all over instead of mulch next Spring.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 10:32AM
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Having dirt up to the siding is what I am sure part of the problem is. Even if you weren't experiencing water seepage the moisture will start to cause rot as the dirt hold moisture longer. It is also an open invitation for insects. Judging by the location of you dryer vent the bottom of you siding is at the top of the foundation give or take an inch or so.

Before I planted or did any other landscaping I would remove the bottom 2 pieces of siding and confirm the hight of the foundation especially at the patio slab. If the slab is less than 4" down (which isn't really enough for areas that get a lot of snow) I would cut the slab back away from the house so the water starts heading down before it gets to the foundation.

Give me a bit and I'll post another image.

Does anyone know why messages keep getting rejected? I keep having to append the Subject of Posting with a number or it tells me that I have already posted a reply and doesn't want me to add another.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 10:45AM
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Yes, you have to make any slight alteration to the subject line to be able make one post after another. Just don't do what one of the favorites on another forum does - a stuttttttttttter. Talk about annoying.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 11:14AM
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This is your best most cost effective solution. If your patio slab isn't at least 4" below the top of the foundation the problems will keep reappearing.

You can rent a concrete saw from the big orange box or somewhere similar but I would recommend a concrete cutting company as they will be able to grind the edges and it is not a fun job.

This repair will allow you to keep your grades where they are and fix the problem. The International Residential Code which is widely adopted in many municipalities throughout the US require the to of the foundation to be a min 18" above grade. Even piers for decks and such are required to be the same.

Most of the codes below apply to your conditions and the rubber membrane will fix it with the exception of number 7 as that requires the waterproofing and footing drain if your basement is finished with studs or firing strips to hold the wall finish..


R317.1 Location required. Protection of wood and wood based products from decay shall be provided in the following locations by the use of naturally durable wood or wood that is preservative-treated in accordance with AWPA U1 for the species, product, preservative and end use. Preservatives shall be listed in Section 4 of AWPA U1.

1. Wood joists or the bottom of a wood structural floor when closer than 18 inches (457 mm) or wood girders when closer than 12 inches (305 mm) to the exposed ground in crawl spaces or unexcavated area located within the periphery of the building foundation.
2. All wood framing members that rest on concrete or masonry exterior foundation walls and are less than 8 inches (203 mm) from the exposed ground.
3. Sills and sleepers on a concrete or masonry slab that is in direct contact with the ground unless separated from such slab by an impervious moisture barrier.
4. The ends of wood girders entering exterior masonry or concrete walls having clearances of less than 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) on tops, sides and ends.
5. Wood siding, sheathing and wall framing on the exterior of a building having a clearance of less than 6 inches (152 mm) from the ground or less than 2 inches (51 mm) measured vertically from concrete steps, porch slabs, patio slabs, and similar horizontal surfaces exposed to the weather.
6. Wood structural members supporting moisture-permeable floors or roofs that are exposed to the weather, such as concrete or masonry slabs, unless separated from such floors or roofs by an impervious moisture barrier.
7. Wood furring strips or other wood framing members attached directly to the interior of exterior masonry walls or concrete walls below grade except where an approved vapor retarder is applied between the wall and the furring strips or framing members.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 11:38AM
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What if I build a Pergola over the patio ? Will any structure over the patio assist anything? I don't know if I want to rip up the patio or not. I could always do that and had someone make a new one using patio blocks and make it more level.

That area takes a direct hit from storms.

If the home builder designed that area will my insurance cover anything?

After a rainstorm the area under the step is usually wet while the rest of the patio is dry.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 1:57PM
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A pergola most likely won't do much especially if that is the side of the house that gets hit the hardest during storms. An entirely enclosed room would but whatever is on the slab should be concrete or aluminum because you would just be adding more potential problems for that room. The slab could support one of those prefab type sunrooms but not much else.

The slab can be cut and doesn't need to be ripped up. A concrete person can cut the piece out and grind the edge to match the rest in just a few hours. After someone sweeps up after them you won't even know they were there.

The insurance company won't do much of anything although they should especially if your state issues "certificates of occupancy" as they are supposed to be inspecting the work at various stages of construction. Unless you own the home outright your insurance is really just protecting the bank's interest.

I had a bunch of other question that I deleted but should have left them as some are relevant to be able to answer your questions who's responsible more accurately. Some of them were:

What year was your house built?
Do you know what codes were being used when it was built?
Do you know the builder?
Are you the first owner?
How lang have you lived there?

A pergola would be nice and this would be a good opportunity for your builder to fix this while building it. Sometimes doing repairs for someone is better than building the absolute flawless house as when you do a warranty repair the homeowner is ecstatic and always finds something else they want them to do and tells their friends and so on... This is really a cheap fix for a builder as you don't have a lot of plantings or other stuff in the way and the materials are all of $200. Even if the repair makes the new construction (pergola) a wash it is still worth his while especially when construction is slow.

But... it doesn't seem like that's a possibility so... at the very least put the wall flashing in an L configuration from under the door to about 12" out and enclose it with a structure like I show below. These product do not like sun and direct exposure to the elements. Do the seam all the way down the wall. Use something like Grace perma barrier wall flashing. I think it comes in 24" wide rolls and lap seams well so you don't have to go as high on the wall or deep in the dirt. You still need to take the bottom panels off the wall to put it in but the siding tool is all of $3.00 and well worth having around.

The condition that is under your step is common/normal but the structural members holding up your house are being exposed to the same and shouldn't be. They probably never get chance to dry out before it rains again though.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 12:34AM
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In your opinion and the smll patio that I have is it worth adding a structure Iike a Pergola or anything else? Or leave it as is?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 9:44AM
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Not at all. I think it would look greet but I do not think it would solve the water problem and it needs to be solved before you do any planting or build any structures that will make the job more difficult and expensive. It will get worse.

I really get so bummed out reading stories like yours because of all the people you paid and we pay as a society to prevent such situations in the first place didn't do their job. Water leaks are still a number one cause of major home repairs in homes under 5 years old and we know how to prevent 90% of them. I read a post on here the other day where people were talking about a crack in a new foundation and saying no big deal and that it's normal. Unfortunately it is but not on my projects. I have had home owners furious at me for leveling parts of new foundations because of incorrectly laid footings, inferior soil/erosion or worked with a new builder who didn't do any slump tests or inspections during the prep or pouring process and didn't notify me about it either. When my clients are asked who they used they tell people you can't afford to use him but you can't afford not to use him either. I only got call-backs for more work. If I had anything to do with your house I wouldn't care if it was 10 days or ten years later I'd be there and doing what I have suggested you do. I have been retired for 6 years now and I still can't get people to take no for an answer.

Here is the bare minimum (along with regrading by removing dirt and not adding any) that you should try. The materials are about $100± and you can do it in a weekend. Get that done and we can design a structure.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 8:48PM
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Can you show me a diagram of hor a Pergola would look? Or what else would look for someone with a low budget? Keep in we live next to a street/technically a highway though where cars drive 50mph behind our patio and behind our blue spruces. Also when we get bad weather our patio and home take a direct hit.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 9:51PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

dinosaur1, what are you trying to accomplish with the pergola?

Here you can see all types of pergolas:

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 10:19PM
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I like how they look and we need some shade back there.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 10:25PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Okay, I misunderstood. It sounded like you expected the pergola to solve the water problem or protect the house from storms.

As to shade, most pergolas are not roofed except with vines. If you want a solid roof, you'll have to consider the amount of snow you're likely to get in your zone 5.

Since the pergola has to span your patio, it's actually an advantage to have a narrower patio because you don't have to pay for oversize beams.

But it's probably better to begin a new thread so people who only read the title will know you want to talk about pergolas now.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 10:41AM
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Your misunderstanding again. The key isn't a Pergola here, we were just simply talking about different designs after I solve my main problem.

jey_l How much would it cost to hire out a contractor to do what you have outlined?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 10:47AM
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Hi D1,

Sorry for the slow reply. Was away for a few days.

I think that if you really want a pergola everything should be coordinated together otherwise flashing the slab would be too expensive by itself. If you regrade (which I think would be the largest expense) and remove a sufficient amount of soil near the house the only part you really need to flash is the slab. The rest will be corrected when you remove the soil away from the house during the regrade. If you hire a landscape company they may build the pergola and regrade but you may have to hire someone else to install the flashing when they come out and prepare the site but because they won't have to dig it should only be a one day job. I do not know what the labor rate is in your area is but the materials for flashing the slab is about $100±.

Can you post some pictures from a little farther back that shows the lay of the land? It looks like on one side the lot takes a considerable dip but on the other it appears to go up. Behind the trees facing the house and from both sides would also be good as well as the sides of the house. Keep the camera as level as possible and hold it closer to the ground. A shot from each edge of the slab w/ the camera sitting on the slab may help too.

I'll also need the exact dimensions of the slab, the length of the foundation and the location and height of the door in relation to the slab.

I have some ideas but really need to see where we can send the water without creating other problems for you. With some more information I can give you something you can get some accurate quotes with locally. Even if you had to do it in 2 phases I think your best bet would be to start looking for a general contractor who does their own site work as they would have the ability to do the entire job with no other subs needed. To regrade the site properly Is the biggest job.

If you can get me that information I can draw something up and provide two options. One with a major regrade and the other with flashing the entire wall and properly pitching the grade away from the house and slab. Both would include flashing the slab and building the pergola.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 11:53PM
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here is a link to some more patio pics. let me know what you think.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 7:30PM
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Hi D1,

I think you photo shopped your lawn to make it look that green. That's what I'm thinkin'. Your lawn looks great! I am posting an image showing the dimensions I need. Unfortunately the images get washed out during the upload.

Looking at the back of your house starting from the right side these are the dimensions I need.

A. From the right side of the house/foundation to the right edge of the slab.
B. The width of the slab.
C. The dimension from the left edge of the slab to the left side of the house/foundation
D. From the right edge of the slab to the right edge of the door.
E. The width of the door measured from the edge where "D" ends and "F" begins.
F. From the left edge of the door to the left edge of the slab.
G. From the house to the edge of the slab near the pines.
H. From the house to the property line.

A, C, and H. can be close (within and inch or two, "H" can be a foot or two) but the others should be exact or at least within 1/4".

The photos show there is daylight available at the sides of the property and some locations to put a rain garden. If you can get me those dimensions I can draw the structure.

The little red "dots" in the image below are camera locations. The ones on the corners of the slab should be taken with the camera sitting on the slab looking towards the the lawn just catching the corner of the house so I can use the siding to measure . I was showing 3 others on the left side from about 50'± away. Hopefully your neighbor wouldn't mind if you took a few shots from their yard. Do not use any tele or wide angle setting when taking the pictures as they distort the edges too much. Keep the camera as low and level as possible or a slight tilt up if any. Distance is key. The more area you can fit into a single shot without a wide-angle setting the better.

I think the least expensive solution is going to be flashing the entire wall although you may be able to find someone who will come in and cut the sod and remove some top soil for free.

So glad you posted some close-ups of the stair as in the other photos it appeared to be on the ground, which it is not, and the sheathing is exposed to the elements with only a thin coat of paint protecting it. Did you like the stair idea I posted above? I am going to specify cedar and Philippine "mahogany" so that it is easier to paint if you choose (just the cedar). Pressure treated lumber will warp split and check like crazy in that location.

Guessing from the dual leaders on the corners of the house I am assuming you have a hip roof and not gable ends so I am going to call out gutter drains in those corners sending them to daylight behind the pines. Because lawn drainage is not a major concern in those locations you can use the corrugated pipe already going across the lawn and the same or a rigid pipe on the other side.

I will be in and out all day today and tomorrow but will have time to get this done on Tuesday if you can get me the dimensions I need. The photos would be nice but are less important although a good shot showing both sides of the pines (in the same picture, distant) and where your property line ends back there would be a great help.



    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 10:36AM
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As far as dimensions... click on this link to see some more pics I took from a computer using Google Street View.

My patio is 12x12. I posted something I received from my city about the house dimensions.

Also, it doesn't have to be a Pergola. I am all about doing something low budget as long as it looks good for my needs. I will be honest. We spend a bit of time back there since we live next to the busy street and my wife is allergic to mosquito bites.

And the other thing is...finding someone local who is reliable to do it.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 12:53PM
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Budget is on my mind too. As for the mosquitos your wife probably knows that the OTC bug repellents don't work. The best think to do is get a real fan that moves the air for outside. Mosquitos cannot fly in the wind. The name of the ones I used escaped me at the moment but when it comes to me I will post it. There is no substitute. They also do not like oils of lavender and other fresh herbs and if you check it out on line you can probably find a good list. I would consider growing some of those so they are readily available for her. I had a relative who was the same way. They were a mosquito magnet no one else would get bit but her.

I was thinking a very simple shade structure with basic 4X4 posts and low pitch shading roof that you can add to and embellish as you like or enclose in the future. If you have any materials that you already have in your basement or garage and would like to use I can use those as well.

You can send me an "anonymous" email through iVillage by clicking on my name and clicking "send an email" to let me know what your budget is and I can be creative in maintaining that. I will also provide an accurate materials list so when you look for someone to do the job you can furnish the materials and hire for labor only.

I am looking at your needs list as:

1. Correct water problem.
2. Create a shady structure than can be enclosed and or modified in the future.
3. Do it within a modest budget that includes easy maintenance, durability and longevity.

Going to the link now and will work on it tomorrow night.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 10:46PM
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I dont see an email link?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2010 at 9:26AM
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Sorry about that. I think it should be there now.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 6:56AM
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jey l, I sent you an e-mail.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 8:34PM
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jey l, you still around?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 1:01PM
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