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  1. #1
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    Default Communicating a gas leak

    I performed an inspection yesterday were I found a small gas leak on the line to the water heater. I told the buyers agent about the leak during the inspection thinking it would be passed on, like all the other times. I then received a call the next day, from the home owner saying they were not informed about the leak until that evening. Should I have done more? Looking for a little info on the issue. Thanks for an inspector still learning the in's and out's of the business.

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  2. #2
    Derek Lewis's Avatar
    Derek Lewis is offline Member
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    If my client is represented by a real estate agent I advise their agent about the leak(s) and they will contact the sellers agent then the sellers agent will advise the seller/owner/bank. If an agent is not present I will call the listing office and advise them, (always get the persons name you talk to). I will leave a note about the gas leak(s) in a conspicuous place with my contact information to include time and date.

    I always tag the exact location of the leak(s). Then I document with photographs the locations of the leaks with my tags easily seen and insert the photos in my report.

    I have on two occasions inspected the same house years apart and yes, there is my gas leak tag attached to the leak and what do you know? The gas leak was never fixed.

    What that saying about leading a horse to.........., you know the rest.


  3. #3
    Eric Barker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    The small leaks I find are not "big deals" and have likely been leaking for quite some time. I think that notifying the listing agent is acceptable. For larger leaks I'll leave a note for the homeowner.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    Regardless of size, I see a gas leak as big liability exposure. Whatever your reporting system I assume your client got that info., via your report. If not your bad. If so, their bad.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    I always call the listing agent. I always leave a note for the homeowner.
    Many times I will call the utility company and have them come out.
    We had a house explode (killing 1 person) in KNoxville, so gas leaks are very important.


  6. #6
    Bob Spermo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    Just wondering - did you find the leak with an electronic gas leak detector? I have found "leaks" with one and then could not verify it with a soap and water solution. The leak detectors can be very (too) sensitive.


  7. #7
    Derek Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    I use the TIF 8800 gas detector, the same detector that I have seen many of the technicians for the local gas company use. I know that the electronic gas detectors are very sensitive and can react to other gases in addition to natural gas. I always try to use my natural sniffer (my nose) to confirm that there is a natural gas leak.

    Question. How can you detect a gas leak with a soap bubble test at a union or shut off valve that is above your head and not visible?


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    I'd suggest you call and ask your gas utility how they handle a report of a gas odor/ leak. At least in my area, the gas co. technician will respond within a couple of hours. The catch is that if nobody is home once they arrive, the gas is shut off to the home until someone can provide full access. I've had inspectors/ realtors call in during an inspection and found/ fixed the leak while the inspection was still in progress.

    I'm not sure how well those few hundred dollar TIF 8800's work or how accurate they are. The ones we carry cost around $5k. Just like with any other piece of equipment, you have to know how to interpret your readings. Our detectors find methane down to a level of 20ppm (1ppm CO), we can't start to smell "gas"--mercaptan until about 300 ppm, while you need appx. 47,000ppm for nat. gas to ignite.


    I then received a call the next day, from the home owner saying they were not informed about the leak until that evening. Should I have done more?
    Why not just leave a note on their front door, or kitchen counter?


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    You have received some good advice in the prior posts. Leaving a note conspicuosly and in your report for an occupied house would seem the right and self protecting thing to do. Shuting off the valve in an unoccupied would be what I would do, (along with the reporting and note). The gas detector will react to alot of uncured pipe thread compound, (they contain solvents).


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    Tag the location, leave a note for the owner, put it in your report; minor leaks.
    Major leaks, shut it down, call the utility.
    Any leak is a potential real hazard. Not reporting is a disgrace.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    I put a wrap of blue tape at the leak. I leave a note on the kitchen table or countertop about the leak for the seller. While, I may not be overly concerned about tiny leaks, I find that most people get pretty excited about any gas leak and appreciate the notification.

    Some pipe dopes will trigger a reaction from electronic sniffers. The TIF 8800 is very vulnerable to pipe dope. Last weekend, I got a call from a past client (mid August) telling me that they had just had the gas company (Exel) come out and they found four gas leaks at their home. They wanted me to pay for fixing them, of course. But a couple of red flags were that Exel didn't shut their gas off and their contractor had found the leaks.

    So, bright and early on Saturday morning, I arrived to see a new water heater and construction work underway. I found a leak at one of the connections to the water heater. I told them to talk to the plumber. At the next place where Exel found a leak, my sniffer (not a TIF) gave a weak reading. I was immediately suspicious of the pipe dope and bubbled it. Nothing. I bubbled the rest of Exel's "leaks" and nothing.

    Lesson, if any.........know your electronic sniffer. They are good but can be fooled. The human nose if far more sensitive and accurate. Bubbling is the final low tech confirmation.

    A side lesson is to address customer complaints head on with courtesy and professionalism. After fifteen years, I have diffused all but 3 or 4 complainers by simply responding immediately to their complaint and explaining what I did and why.


  12. #12
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    Madison, WI
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    Thank you all for some really great posts and insight. Most of the ideas stated I do also, but a couple I will add in different situations. In this case, no gas smell and detected with a TIF, leak documented in report with pic, pipe marked and buyers agent told to contact listing agent. but the ball was droped there and the home inspector was the first one to get an ear full.

    like the fact that I'm not the only one that finds the TIF a little sensitive.

    Thanks again to all and I have to say this side has mad me a better home inspector and business owner.


  13. #13
    Derek Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    I agree with the statement that the TIF 8800 can pick up solvent gas from pipe dope and that the TIF is a very sensitive sniffer. I also agree that the human nose is sensitive to smelling a gas leak and whenever possible I try to confirm what my TIF has detected.

    I would like to know how does the bubble test work on a leak that is not in a visible location, for instance in between the basement ceiling joists where it is not possible to see any bubbling, or at the back of a fitting or shut off valve that can't be seen?

    I think it comes down to knowing your equipment and its limitations. On a recent inspection I detected two gas leaks with my sniffer and confirmed them with my human sniffer, my nose. The local energy company, DTE was called by the listing agent and they sent a tech out right away. The tech walks in in with a sniffer that he said cost the utility company $5,000 and only picks up natural gas.
    I showed him the location of the two leaks I detected. He checks and confirms the first leak, his equipment does not pick up the second leak and he states that my equipment is too sensitive. I turned on my sniffer at the second location and got a strong reading I asked him to use his nose at the location of the second leak and what did he smell. He agreed that there was a gas leak odor that my TIF picked up, that my nose picked up and that his nose picked up but his $5,000 natural gas sniffer did not pick up.

    Wether your sniffer cost a few hundred dollars or $5,000 my take on it is to use experience and common sense when using any type of equipment. If your detector and your nose agrees I think it would be safe to say there is a gas leak.

    Notify the proper parties. Know that you did a good job and sleep peacefully at night.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    Have used the TIF for almost 15 years. As a BPI Building Analyst Professional, the sensitivity for us is a plus, as we can use it to "trace" gas leaks. Glad I saved $4800.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    I regularly smell gas leaks with my nose and do not carry any type of gas sniffing device. Big or small, they all get reported.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Communicating a gas leak

    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Whitmore View Post
    I'd suggest you call and ask your gas utility how they handle a report of a gas odor/ leak. At least in my area, the gas co. technician will respond within a couple of hours. The catch is that if nobody is home once they arrive, the gas is shut off to the home until someone can provide full access. I've had inspectors/ realtors call in during an inspection and found/ fixed the leak while the inspection was still in progress.

    I'm not sure how well those few hundred dollar TIF 8800's work or how accurate they are. The ones we carry cost around $5k. Just like with any other piece of equipment, you have to know how to interpret your readings. Our detectors find methane down to a level of 20ppm (1ppm CO), we can't start to smell "gas"--mercaptan until about 300 ppm, while you need appx. 47,000ppm for nat. gas to ignite.




    Why not just leave a note on their front door, or kitchen counter?
    Brandon and I are in the same area.... I probably call NW Natural Gas a couple times a year and they always show up within an hour or so. On a related note I called our local power co. the other day due to a failed overhead service drop anchor. Within 15 minutes a guy in a truck showed and fixed it.


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