I smell a small natural gas leak in my crawl space. I think it's been that
way for several years. Previously I had called the utility company to check.
The guy refused to go into the crawl space. Instead, he looked at the gas
meter for a few minutes and decided that there is no leak, and left.
Today I went into the crawl space, and again, when I'm near a certain
section of the gas pipe I smell gas. So I'm pretty sure there is a leak. The
pipes are metal rigid pipe, with a little bit of rust.
I'm thinking DIY repair, but the pipes are rigid and screwed together. In
order to remove one section of pipe, I'd have to turn it which would loosen
it on one end and tighten it on the other end. Are they designed to be
loosen this way, or would I strip the thread on the tighter end? If I can
losen the pipe, then I think adding a piece of pipe tape to the thread and
screwing it back may do the trick, except that the other end may now start
to leak after being overtightened and then loosen again.
If I get a contractor to fix this, what are they most likely to do to fix
The house is 20 years old and the gas pipes probably are as well.
That's totally unacceptable; I'd report that to the utility company. At
least here they're responsible to at least determine unequivocally the
presence/absence of leaks although it's you nickel to repair anything on
your side of the meter.
This is too potentially dangerous a situation to leave unattended...
No, and no but you'll never get a joint apart that way, either.
First, have to determine where, _precisely_ the leak is--do you even
know for certain it is the joint itself and not a pinhole failure?
Depends on how far it is back to a union and where the leak is
identified to be and what the root cause is. If they determine it is
the joint itself and it's a long way to a union likely they'll cut the
pipe and insert a union. If it's not too far away they'll take it back
to that point and reassemble and/or replace depending on the conditions
I would definitely fix such a leak. However, it is not an imminent
emergency if the crawl space is ventilated. Natural gas only becomes
explosive when the concentration in air is above 4-5% (and below
15-17%), and a small leak in a ventilated crawl space will never build
up that much.
This can be an acceptable method to check for a leak but it takes
longer than a few minutes. It requires that all gas appliances be
off. If any of them use a standing pilot, you have to close the shut
off valve to that appliance and relight the pilot when finished.
Then you use a piece of tape and align one edge of the tape exactly
along the pointer dial on the least significant dial (the one that
turns fastest). Come back in a couple hours and see if the pointer
has moved. If it hasn't, you don't have a leak.
Just an FYI, the plumbing codes I am familiar with only allow unions
at accessible locations, such as the gas meter and at an appliance.
So in a crawl space the proper connection to use is a left/right
coupling, which is a nipple/coupling combination which is left-hand
threaded. That way you can rotate the coupling in one direction and
simultaneously tighten (or loosen) both ends.
well most utility companys who find a leak on the homeowners side do
one thing, turn off and red tag meter and home till a registered
plumber fixes it and pressure tests the entire homes gas lines.before
gas will be turned back on. they might require checking the
underground line too......
now that doesnt sound too bad but natural gas is at most a couple PSI.
But the required pressure test is 75 pounds. This high pressure finds
leaks that never leaked before it literally creates leaks.
Around here with rusty pipes the plumber will mosty likely want to
replace ALL the gas lines. Cant say I blame them just one tiny bit of
rust allows a leak at 75 pounds and they must start all over, at their
I would go find the leak with soapy water before proceeding.......
Once you know where it is it might be repairable, if the lines are
rusty you will need them replaced
Yep, thats what they do. Wife called the gas company about smelling
gas in the garage. She didnt want to wake me up at 10AM given Im a
shift worker. No hot water for 10 days, $400 dollar plumber bill to
tighten the flare coupling on the water heater.
Well, we don't know much (as in anything) about that here, do we? And,
if it's been leaking for years, there's no telling for sure that it
won't worsen quickly, either, depending on what the root cause might be.
You can make any judgment you wish about the severity of the situation;
I'm not about to make light of any such incident from afar...
Before you do anything else, take soapy water and find the leak
if there is one, it may be in a place that isn't hard to fix.
check all the fittings and pipe as well, it is unlikely the leak
is in the pipe but not impossible. The pipes actually look good
for 20 years. The first place to look for a suspected leak
would be where the pipe comes through the foundation, corrosion
will be worse there than anywhere else.
You crawl under there with a spray bottle of soapy water and spray the
joints and look for leaks. If you can't find the leak (if there is a
leak) you cap all the ends disconnect from the meeter and do a pressure
test and once again with more air pressure on the lines, you crawl under
the house with the spray bottle of soapy water. If it's leaking at a
joint then you have to decide if you want to start unscrewing the pipes
or cut one out and put in a union. It's a lot fun. Make sure the
pipes are hung properly so they don't sag or put stress on the joints.
Beware, if the gas company does find a leak they are apt to leave
with your gas meter in the back of their truck.
Well, the first thing thing that comes to mind is that living in a
house with a suspected gas leak for "several years" is, well, stupid,
but apparently you survived long enough to post your question.
If it were me, I would have *insisted* that the utility company do a
proper check with a sniffer to determine if there was a leak or not.
If I were you, I would *insist* upon that before I touched a pipe or
called a contractor.
The next question is this: Is there a shutoff to this section of pipe
or does it come directly from the meter? If there is no shutoff, and
your gas meter is anything like mine, you're going to need to get the
utility company involved anyway. Unless you plan to fix the pipe
"live" (a very stupid idea) once you shut the gas off at the meter,
you'll need to call your utility company to have them turn it back on.
At least, I do. The meter locks itself out and the utility company has
the tools to turn it back on.
Finally, in most cases, you'll need to go to find a union to remove
any section of pipe. All junctions are going to be threaded the same
way, so you can't just unscrew one end have the other end unscrew
also. Another option is to cut the section and insert a union.
In any case, you really should get the utility company out there, if
for no other reason than to get some decent service for all the money
you've given them over the years.
YOU have to find the leak. Or pay someone to do it. Couple of points:
1. It may not BE a leak. While Mercaptan has a distinctive smell, the odor
may be coming from something else entirely. Did one of the previous owners
of the house disappear under mysterious circumstances?
2. Use some cardboard or similar to block off as much air-flow as possible
thereby increasing the concnetration of gas under the house. Does the
intensity of the oder increase?
3. When you do find the leak, remember natural gas pressure is measured in
OUNCES/sq in (about four ounces). It doesn't take much to stop such
pressure: Heck, a Band-Aid would do it.
I have a spot in my detached garage that reeks of some 'mercaptan'y
smell. It has for 25 years. There is no natural gas within 1/2
mile. My propane tank is 100feet away on the opposite side of my
house- which is 50 feet from the other side of the garage.
I've torn everything out to the inside of the T-1-11 siding- smell is
gone for a day, or a week, or a month-- then I smell it again. I'm
guessing the previous owner spilled something there-- or it is right
in the concrete.
Hmmm--- I did find a prosthetic leg in the attic. . . maybe the old
leg is beckoning from below the garage?
Call the local fire marshall and ask him for a residential inspection.
He can use this as a training exercise for new recruits.
He should really know how the local utilities operate and function.
_Fire Marshall Bill in National Fire Safety Week Jim Carrey_
Use soapy water to find it. fixing a loose connection mid-stream
requires a pipe union - the difficult part is removing the original
pipe without causing a spark. A cut-off wheel is NOT the answer - a
hacksaw can cause a spark, but if you flow water over the cut it is
extremely unlikely. Spin out both ends, buy 2 peices half the length
and a pipe inion, or rethread the cut ends if you have the equipment
available. Use teflon pipe dope on the joints - NOT TEFLON TAPE..
The proper union is usually referred to as a "ground joint union"
which has accurately machined or ground taper that does not require
pipe dope or gaskets.
They are legal if accessible, although code calls for them only at the
meter and at consuming devices.
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