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Ken
Premium,MVM
join:2003-06-16
Markle, IN

1 recommendation

Gas lines and DIY

I fully support the idea of homeowners doing work themselves, but it's very important to understand your own limitations. Dealing with black iron pipe and natural gas or propane is something you can DIY if you have the proper knowledge. In fact you could probably watch a couple seasons of This Old House and learn all the important bits from watching Richard Trethewey. If you have never done it before get someone who has to help you and check your work.

Ok off my soapbox now. We moved 6 months ago to a new property with house and pole barn all built in 1997. We are the 3rd owners of the property, the 2nd owner didn't use the barn for anything except storing his lawn mower. I wanted to fix it up and use it as my workshop. We noticed right away the barn smelled really bad, but I didn't investigate because I figured it was just the barn itself that smelled bad. 6 months later the barn is cleaned out and yet it still smells. We have a 500 gallon propane tank on one side of the barn. The propane runs through copper underground from tank to barn. Then through 1/2" black iron up the wall, across the trusses, and back down the far wall. It then transitions back to copper and goes underground about 100' to the house.



Come to find out the black iron is leaking. I get soapy water and find that almost every single joint I check is leaking. I go and check the black iron in the basement of the house and no leaks at all. I notice the black iron in the basement appears to be professionally installed, but the black iron in the barn does not. I'm assuming the 1st homeowner had a real contractor install the pipe in the house and then either ran the black iron in the barn himself or hired some hack off the street to do it. This weekend I took apart every single joint of the black iron in the barn. What I found was each and every connection came loose extremely easy. I would guess they hand tightened the pipe and then used a pipe wrench to turn it maybe 1/2 turn past hand tight. The second thing I noticed was almost no dope at all on the threads in the connection, only outside. Not sure if he forgot dope and then walked around and smeared it on later to pass inspection or what happened.







But basically out of the 34 threaded connection points in the barn 20 of them were leaking. 3 of those I would term as major leaks. This appears to have been this way since 1997. Only reason the barn never blew up was it has so many air leaks it couldn't reach the proper air/fuel ratio for explosion. So I cleaned off as much dope as I could. I then used brand new dope for gas lines and tightened the connections properly. When I was done that 40' run across the ceiling was 3" shorter than before because of how much more I tightened the connections. I checked everything again and no surprise I didn't have any leaks. The other no surprise is 24 hours later and the barn suddenly doesn't smell bad anymore.


LazMan
Premium
join:2003-03-26
canada

1 recommendation

Wow...

That's how people get dead.

Glad no one was hurt... I'm not a particularlly letigious (I probably spelled that wrong) guy - but I may be tempted to speak to your realtor and/or lawyer - besides the risk you were placed in (no harm, no foul) - there's the actually monetary loss of 6 months worth of propane leaking out and into the wind...



rfhar
The World Sport, Played In Every Country
Premium
join:2001-03-26
Buicktown,Mi
Reviews:
·Power-Net Intern..
reply to Ken

Things have changed over the decades. My grandfather was a master carpenter at the turn of the last century when it was not uncommon for carpenters to do the plumbing and electrical. His way of seeing if a circuit was hot was to wet his finger and stick the finger in a socket. I watched him check a new gas line (black pipe) by running a match along it after turning the gas.

The "good" ole days. Maybe this step was not done?
--
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Cure Disease with your computer



cableties
Premium
join:2005-01-27

DIY with education.

If Propane (LP), a copper line is acceptable in most areas for underground as it won't oxidize from the LP.
But Black pipe will. Codes are for this reason. Which I am surprised it was permitted.

check this out:
»www.propane101.com/lpgasserviceline.htm
--
Splat


robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1

Not sure what you are saying. In this installation copper was used underground and black pipe inside a building. What are you saying is wrong with that?



jrs8084
Premium
join:2002-03-02
Statesville, NC
kudos:1
reply to Ken

Sadly, there is a smoldering pile of debris about 75 miles southwest of you that underscores the the damage a gas leak can do.



Ken
Premium,MVM
join:2003-06-16
Markle, IN

That was on my mind on Sunday when I was working on it. It's actually a miracle that the barn never blew up at some point in the past. It smelled so strong in there, but it didn't occur to me that it was a gas leak.


Badonkadonk
Premium
join:2000-12-17
Naperville, IL
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Dish Network

When it comes to things like that, unless I'm supremely confident about my abilities, I stay away from DIY where there are possible safety consequences. A poor cope cut never killed anyone.
--
Awesome. More handouts, food stamps, welfare and entitlements to come. I'm so proud.


Aranarth

join:2011-11-04
Stanwood, MI
Reviews:
·Frontier Communi..
reply to Ken

On the plus side, your gas bill will be much lower next time you re-up.

I'm also on an LP tank, but we had pro-installers put everything in.
The only thing I did was the line from the floor tap to the dryer.

You better believe I used plenty of dope. We left it as is with the lp supplied and then went back 2 days later with a black light, and the sniff test.

It seems to have passed.

I had a friend come back with an off-gas detector (he works for the local gas co) and that did not detect anything either.


nyrrule27

join:2007-12-06
Howell, NJ

4 recommendations

reply to Ken

stop playing with the barn and get the safe open



pike
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-01
Washington, DC
kudos:3
reply to Aranarth

said by Aranarth:

You better believe I used plenty of dope.

Applying excessive dope is just as much as a rookie mistake as not using enough. It's not likely to be a safety concern in a residential application, but it will invariably lead to damaged or inoperative gas appliances.

robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1

Not only that, but you don't use dope on the flex line from the valve to the appliance.


Zach1
Premium
join:2006-11-26
NW Minnesota
reply to jrs8084

said by jrs8084:

Sadly, there is a smoldering pile of debris about 75 miles southwest of you that underscores the the damage a gas leak can do.

This tragedy made the news up here. The pictures from the scene are truly shocking. When having a look around one of the local television station's website, I found this video....

»www.wishtv.com/dpp/video/video-h···-damages

At first click, I thought it was something from the AHJ but it wasn't a few seconds that I realized it was some home inspector. While he doesn't seem to grasp how a thermocouple works on a gas valve, it was curious that he mentioned CSST, made a few points known about physical damage and held up a sample while speaking. It was almost as if he wanted to comment on the more serious problems with CSST but stopped short.
--
Zach


SwedishRider
Rider on the Storm
Premium
join:2006-01-11
not Sweden
kudos:1
reply to Badonkadonk

said by Badonkadonk:

When it comes to things like that, unless I'm supremely confident about my abilities, I stay away from DIY where there are possible safety consequences. A poor cope cut never killed anyone.

Same here. Electrical and propane work I always sub out to the pros. I research and come up with solution ideas, but when the rubber hits the road, I know when I don't know and call in reputable pros to get the job done right.


fifty nine

join:2002-09-25
Sussex, NJ
kudos:2
reply to robbin

said by robbin:

Not only that, but you don't use dope on the flex line from the valve to the appliance.

You don't? What do you use then?

kherr
Premium
join:2000-09-04
Collinsville, IL

I'm figure he means the flare fitting on the supply and flare fitting on the appliance, which are a machine fit. If that leaks toss the fitting and get new ones.



pike
Premium,MVM
join:2001-02-01
Washington, DC
kudos:3
reply to fifty nine

said by fifty nine:

You don't? What do you use then?

Nothing on a flare fitting.. !


Shadow01
Premium
join:2003-10-24
Wasteland

1 recommendation

reply to nyrrule27

said by nyrrule27:

stop playing with the barn and get the safe open

What he said

Badonkadonk
Premium
join:2000-12-17
Naperville, IL
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Dish Network
reply to SwedishRider

said by SwedishRider:

said by Badonkadonk:

When it comes to things like that, unless I'm supremely confident about my abilities, I stay away from DIY where there are possible safety consequences. A poor cope cut never killed anyone.

Same here. Electrical and propane work I always sub out to the pros. I research and come up with solution ideas, but when the rubber hits the road, I know when I don't know and call in reputable pros to get the job done right.

Yeah, there are just some things I don't want to take chances on, especially with a family.
--
Awesome. More handouts, food stamps, welfare and entitlements to come. I'm so proud.

HarryH3
Premium
join:2005-02-21
kudos:3
Reviews:
·Suddenlink
reply to fifty nine

said by fifty nine:

said by robbin:

Not only that, but you don't use dope on the flex line from the valve to the appliance.

You don't? What do you use then?

The threads on flare fittings and compression fittings are not there to act as a seal against leakage. They simply apply pressure against the connection to force it to seal properly. Using pipe dope on those is a waste of time and pipe dope.


alkizmo

join:2007-06-25
Pierrefonds, QC
kudos:1
reply to Zach1

Someone needs to send this link to Mythbusters.
They did an episode on whether a building can blow up from a gas leak (based on a Jason Bourne movie) and they couldn't replicate an explosion.

They need to revisit the myth because that building obviously blew up!



cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

said by alkizmo:

Someone needs to send this link to Mythbusters.
They did an episode on whether a building can blow up from a gas leak (based on a Jason Bourne movie) and they couldn't replicate an explosion.

They need to revisit the myth because that building obviously blew up!

I don't think it's a myth that a building can blow up due to a gas leak. There's evidence in Indy, and with that in the news around here (120m north of Indy), a lot of people know of smaller explosions where friends or relatives were injured. DSLR even featured one that's about 10 miles away from Ken's current location. The myth is how the explosion happens, and the damage it causes.

telco_mtl

join:2012-01-06
reply to alkizmo

said by alkizmo:

Someone needs to send this link to Mythbusters.
They did an episode on whether a building can blow up from a gas leak (based on a Jason Bourne movie) and they couldn't replicate an explosion.

They need to revisit the myth because that building obviously blew up!

anyone from montreal should be aware of this one!!
»en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaSalle_He···Disaster


leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
reply to nyrrule27

said by nyrrule27:

stop playing with the barn and get the safe open

One doesn't have to exclude the other. Just think about the possibility of using a barn filled with the right gas and air mixture to open that safe rather quickly
--
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Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
reply to cdru

said by cdru:

I don't think it's a myth that a building can blow up due to a gas leak. There's evidence in Indy, and with that in the news around here (120m north of Indy), a lot of people know of smaller explosions where friends or relatives were injured. DSLR even featured one that's about 10 miles away from Ken's current location. The myth is how the explosion happens, and the damage it causes.

Cause not determined for explosion

quote:
"It is still an investigation so we're very limited on the information we can give out," said Gary Coons, the chief of the Indianapolis division of the Department of Homeland Security. "We're looking at everything -- all causes, all possibilities. There's a lot of possibilities out there. ... There's a lot of possibilities that could trigger an explosion like this."

Authorities said they had launched a probe into the explosion, but cautioned they might not know the cause for days.

"You're talking days -- it could be weeks," Capt. Rita Burris, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Fire Department, told ABC News. "They're going over the scene and processing evidence. It's still in the investigation stage."

Sarah Holsapple, a spokeswoman for Citizens Energy, said that no gas leaks had been found and that other lines were being tested. She said, however, that she did not know how long the testing would take.


Hall
Premium,MVM
join:2000-04-28
Germantown, OH
kudos:2
reply to Ken

said by Ken:

When I was done that 40' run across the ceiling was 3" shorter than before because of how much more I tightened the connections.

That's great ! How many joints ? I mean, between "snug" tight and properly tight is what, less than a 1/4" of thread ? Those must have been really, really loose !

Aranarth

join:2011-11-04
Stanwood, MI
reply to robbin

don't worry I used the right amount - just enough to cover the treads and only on the pipe so the excess is on the outside of the pipe, and I used the stuff that came with the flexline which I assumed was dope...



Ken
Premium,MVM
join:2003-06-16
Markle, IN
reply to Hall

There were 4 couplers, a union, and 2 elbows. So 12 threaded connections on the horizontal run total and if each one goes in a 1/4" farther that's exactly 3". I'm just guessing mine was about 3" shorter, I didn't actually measure it.



cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

said by Ken:

I'm just guessing mine was about 3"

Quoted for posterity. Hopefully that was NOT what she said. :P

id09542

join:2002-04-25
Bloomington, IL
reply to Ken

Technology marches on, I just love using stainless steel flex lines now for these long runs. Ends up being less expensive due to not needing fittings.