Robert Lamoureux: Replacing gas lines, slumpstone flaking

Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected]
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Question No. 1
Robert,

I’m a do-it-yourselfer and have much real estate, so I have a handyman and we are looking to replace a gas line at one of my properties. It has expensive landscaping and I don’t want to damage it if at all possible but need to replace this metal gas line.
It is my understanding that there is a plastic pipe available for this application, which is forgiving when it comes to turns and bends. Is this fact and, if so, what are the pros and cons of using this versus the standard black metal gas pipe?
— Bill B.

Answer No. 1
Bill,

Only pros here, no cons. The plastic will allow you to navigate around the existing landscaping in most cases, which will give you the scenario you are looking for, not to have to excavate the existing plant life. The plastic line is typically yellow and is, as you said, very forgiving.
There are two ways to make the connections; butt fusion or socket fusion. Butt fusion uses a heating device that heats both pieces prior to “butting” them together — this takes a bit of practice but is very doable. The other method is socket fusion, which is a mechanical coupling. If you use this mechanical method, you will also need to wrap the coupling in three layers of 10 mil tape.
Code says that when you are digging, the top of the pipe needs to be at a depth of 24 inches so be sure you dig deep enough to accomplish this. As you come up out of the ground, you will need to transition your pipe to either black pipe or the Scotchkote metal pipe.
Another thing to be done is that you will need to put a #10 solid (not stranded) wire along the entire length of the pipe that also comes up out of the ground. This wire is for tracing purposes in case this gas line needs to be traced in the future by either the gas company or anyone else.
Being that this is a plastic pipe, the wire makes it possible for the equipment to be able to detect and chase the direction/location of this gas line. With all of this said, it is all with the idea that you have pulled a permit and are having inspections at each necessary stage.
The inspector will require that you perform a pressure test, which means that you’ll put a gauge on one end, cap the other, and pressurize the line with 15 pounds of pressure, which it will need to hold for a period of 24 hours. Any drop in pressure signals a leak, and that will need to be resolved prior to moving forward.
At this point, you’ll begin the backfill. Do this only to 1 foot at this point, and compact your soil. Now lay yellow caution tape the entire length of this new install inside your trench. The reason for the caution tape is so that at any point in the future anyone digging that comes across this caution tape, they will know immediately that there is a hazard, most likely a utility of some sort.
You will then be able to continue backfilling, being sure to make proper compaction.
If you have never worked with gas line you, may want to turn this one over to a qualified contractor who is licensed and insured. Good luck with this project.
— Robert

Courtesy photo
Contracting expert Robert Lamoureaux says the white on the reader’s slumpstone wall is phosphorus, caused by minerals in the water here. Since the condition is caused by poor, absent or aged waterpoofing. To avoid the possibility of failure, he recommends excavating the back side of the wall and waterproofing it.

Question No. 2
Hello Robert,

Thanks for all the other assistance you have given me in the past. My current issue is our slumpstone wall. It has had white scaling on it for some time. Now the actual slumpstone block is beginning to flake apart. It was installed in 2002. Is there something that can be applied to the entire block wall that would end up creating a smooth wall that could then be colored to our choosing? Would it be just like a stucco coating? Would the wall have to be prepped in some way to guarantee adhesion? Would you recommend a concrete mason or a stucco contractor? Thank you in advance. Be safe and isolated.
— Kip M.

Answer No. 2
Kip,

I’m glad I got to see these pictures. The white is phosphorus caused by minerals in the water due to bad or an absence of waterproofing in the back side of the wall. If you were to stucco over this the new stucco would no doubt fail in less than a year.
The only proper way to correct this is to excavate the back side of the wall and waterproof it.
If this continues the wall can fail, causing a condition called “spalling.” This is where the steel inside the wall rusts and expands, then causing the surface to break off. When spalling occurs is when it gets very expensive as this is a structural wall. Best of luck.
*As a followup, know that the lack of waterproofing on the back side could be age, as most waterproofing will only last about 10 years, at most, if done properly and there is no damage done to it.
— Robert

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