Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Turning on the Gas (Putting the "As-Is" in the As-Is Clause, Part 1)

As a renter, I never knew what entailed the gas turn-on. I would just call to have it set up, and when I moved in, I started cooking.

Things are different when you have a rehabbed house where you never really know the full extent of how badly the last owners cut corners. The People's Gas guy, Bob, came over yesterday afternoon. He helped me connect the kitchen stove, then lit the pilot light. Then we went downstairs so he could turn on the water heater. He showed me how the exhaust pipes weren't properly drawing the fumes away, and explained what we needed to do to help with that. We covered up an empty flue hole with tinfoil.

This week, our friend Mo started working on the electrical stuff. If Tim wasn't around, he would explain to me what he was doing and the problems he was encountering. About 5 seconds into his long explanations, my eyes would glaze over. I can't follow most of what is said about electrics. Gas and plumbing, this is a different story. It makes sense. Bob lit a match and held it by a flue to find out if it was drawing air or pumping it out. We unscrewed a pipe and could feel, hear, and smell the gas, and instantly knew what direction it was flowing.

Bob, an older guy who had been working for People's Gas for years, complained a lot about how these days, people cut too many corners in the work they do, and pointed out places where we needed to replace flexible pipe with hard pipe, and where to trim flues to prevent the chimney exhaust from getting clogged. It was stressful to listen to him. I'm all about doing the work well, but our bank account can't always facilitate our desires.

Bob set up the pipe so we could install the gas dryer Tim was getting on Craigslist, and got ready to wrap things up. "Is it normal after you turn on the gas, and we've been testing it, to smell gas like this?" I asked, as we were in the future laundry area. He stopped packing up his tools, took a deep smell, and started unpacking. "No," he said. "That smells like a leak."

We poked around the basement some more, and under the stairwell, found a flexible pipe connected to hard pipe that led outside. Outside? When we went outside, we saw the hard pipe was affixed to the outer wall for about 10-15 feet, then went back into the house. It appeared to insert at the pipe junction for the laundry area. Now why in the world it went outside . . . ?? God only knows. Under the stairwell, there was a valve that was in "shut-off" position. When turned on, we could hear the gas whooshing through the pipes, but couldn't tell exactly where it was going. Two rooms over, in the laundry area, the gas smell was stronger, and we could hear a subsequent whoosh behind the drywall. We took a hammer and knocked down a few square feet of drywall, trying to locate the open pipe.

I think this was outside of Bob's job description, but he was quite a sport, and wielded the hammer well.

We never did locate the open pipe, but it was getting on two hours, and the end of Bob's day. He said repeatedly that he wouldn't be able to turn on the gas for us, and we'd have to call a plumber, and I began to despair. Eventually, we settled on him capping the flow at the valve under the stairs, which cut off supply to the mysterious exit in the wall.

About half an hour later, I was able to do the dishes in warm water. I'm trying not to worry about the mysterious pipes in the wall.

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