What I'm Seeing Now

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Propane Tanks Must Be Supported Well!

The subject of my haiku yesterday, propane tanks must be supported well!

Walking around to the back side of this house, I was met by this small army of 100 pound propane tanks.  The gas guys tell me these each hold 72.4 gallons of propane.  The gas is compressed, of course, and each gallon weighs 4.144 pounds.  That means when filled each of these fellows weighs 300 pounds!

So this array is very heavy!

I noticed immediately that they were leaning pretty dramatically.

You can see where the small, concrete flatwork pad they are supported on is pulling away from the foundation wall as it sinks.

This sinking is certainly ongoing.

AND THE HOUSE IS ONLY FOUR YEARS OLD!

I was about 45 minutes earlier than my client, so I walked around for a bit.  Looking at the other houses in  the neighborhood, every house was similarly equipped with the same three tanks.  And no other pad was sinking as this one is.

These tanks are connected to serve their gas to the house respectively.  The one nearest to the camera is the only one with a gage, and it read about 1/3 full.

I don't know if that means all the tanks are 1/3 full, or if the two other ones have been basically emptied and this is the last tank with gas.  My understanding is that you don't want a propane tank to get below about 1/4 full because moisture can get inside which is not a good thing so they may be set to discharge equally.

So let's assume they are all discharging their gas at equal rates and therefore are all 1/3 full.

WHEN THEY ARE FILLED THEY WILL CERTAINLY BECOME MORE TOP HEAVY.  THAT WILL MAKE THEM MORE VULNERABLE TO GRAVITY AND THE POSSIBILITY OF TIPPING.

And, of course, when they are filled they will put additional stress on that pad, probably sinking further.  If they fall they may yank the gas line from the house.  None of this bodes well!

This pad needs to be removed, and another, thicker, better-founded pad put in its place.  I think this one is compromised.  AND THE NEW ONE SHOULD BE A REALLY GOOD PAD!

Can I change the old children's church song?

The wise man put his tanks upon a pad,
The wise man put his tanks upon a pad,
The wise man put his tanks upon a pad,
So the tanks ain't tumbling down!

There, that about does it!  I'm sure the parents will love the kids singing the word "ain't!"  Welcome to Virginia!

My recommendation:   look around!  If something is supposed to be straight, it is supposed to be straight!  No surprises here!  And sing the song.  Your clients will love it!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 67 commentsJay Markanich • October 23 2011 05:14AM

Comments

That does not look very safe. Playing with gas can be quite dangerous - a risk homeowners should not take.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 7 years ago

I agree Debbie.  There is risk enough in having the tanks there, much less than tilting like that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

All along I thought it was your camera angle, silly me

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) about 7 years ago

The tanks are fine but the house is drunk James.  My only explanation.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Good morning, Jay. Aw-w-w-w, "yer just Joshin' us!" It's gotta be trick photography. No one with half an oar in the water would do such a thing...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) about 7 years ago

You're right, of course Michael.  It's that tricky Lumix lense!

The sellers are not in the house, having moved some months ago.  But I am sure they left these tanks leaning this way!  And wouldn't you think the propane company would have noticed it?  Hmmm...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay: Typically, would this be a vendor thing, not a builder thing? I am such a chicken with respect to gas. And Lenn's comments every once in awhile jsut makes me more fearful. BTW, love the haiku! Jay Markanich-home inspector and poet! A true rennaisance man!

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) about 7 years ago

Thanks Anne.  We'll see how that haiku thing goes!  The hard thing will be coming up with one every week!

When done properly gas is very safe.  Of the tens of thousands of homes in our area with gas, in the last 10 years I only remember one blowing up.  And that was because a plumber came to do a repair and nicked a gas line by accident.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Good Morning Jay,  I enjoyed reading your blog this morning. We use propane in our home.  The gas companies are very strict about tank inspections and regulations here and will not even fill a tank if it does not meet the requirements.  I guess that is a good thing considering there are many hazards that can be avoided concerning propane tanks.

Posted by Captain Wayne - Rowlett Real Estate School, Rowlett Real Estate School / Owner and Instructor (REcampus Fully Accredited Florida ONLINE & Classroom Training in Destin, Pensacola Florida) about 7 years ago

What it's supposed to be level?  Oh Jay you silly man. 

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) about 7 years ago

Is this on the level ?  Think they should have used one !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 7 years ago

Jay, those tanks need a Billy Jays tank leveler...

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) about 7 years ago

Clearly this is not a bad installation, but the result of recent seismic activity in in your region. Or it could just be schluck work. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 7 years ago

All I can picture is the tanks falling, the hose leading to the house being ripped out, gas escaping, explosions, screaming...  You wonder how many people walked past those tanks and thought it was just fine.

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) about 7 years ago

Yeow!  I wish I could say that's the first time I've ever seen that, but unfortunately, it's one of many.  I guess people just don't even think about it if the heat is on and the house hasn't blow off the foundation.  Whew!  Have a great tankless Sunday!

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) about 7 years ago

Jay, I didn't know you could put these tanks in a series. If one falls over, they will all go.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 7 years ago

We normally have the big tanks up in Minnesota so I dont see these and they like them refilled at 20%

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) about 7 years ago

Jay...Looks like a time bomb from a 50's science fiction movie.

Posted by Howard and Susan Meyers (The Hudson Company Winnetka and North Shore) about 7 years ago

Love your verison of the an old sunday school song.  :)  Will definitely stick with me!  Thanks!!

Posted by Joy Daniels (Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd.) about 7 years ago

We don't see gas around here much but this does remind me of the 50's when gas was popular in our area.

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) about 7 years ago

Thanks for the wake up call concerning this ! Many folks in our area are ditching oil for propane !

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) about 7 years ago

The right way, the wrong way and the Jay way.....I choose Jay way....its the safest best way to go

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 7 years ago

I have had propane heating just once in my life and the huge tank out back just freaked me out! Propane is somewhat flamable right??

Posted by Rosalie Evans, The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale (Meritus Group Real Estate) about 7 years ago

I am surprised the propane company has not insisted that the homeowner correct this issue.  My underground tank is actually leased from the propane company.  I do not own it.  They are responsible for any issues concerning the tank.

Posted by Bob Zorechak - ABR, GRI, e-PRO, Sells Homes in Morris/Somerset/Hunterdon Cos., NJ (Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan) about 7 years ago

This looks like a disaster waiting to happen...  

 

Good eye and good report!

Posted by Mark Geis (Coldwell Banker, Mulleady, Inc. Realtors) about 7 years ago

Looks to me you need DIY guy to build you some tank shims to fixer up goood.

Posted by Brad Gotham (Granite Peak Inspection, Inc. ) about 7 years ago

This looks way too dangerous. Don't the propane companies or code enforcement check these out?

Posted by Sandy Acevedo, RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale (951-290-8588) about 7 years ago

Wayne - this is a small county and when these tanks were approved they were probably fine.  Until now, possibly, nobody noticed their problem.

Cindy - only during the week.  I saw this on a Saturday, so they couldn't get away with it.

S&D - the house has not been occupied in about five months.  And it's possible the sellers do not understand that this is abnormal.

Andrea - that's surely their problem.  And a Billy Jays Pick Yer Pad!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jim - it is downhill from the sump pump discharge.  About 15' away.  Could be a little compromise of the soil with weight and constant moisture.

Kathryn - I bet the propane company has seen these tanks every few months for years now. 

Trying to Mike.  This house is in Boyce, not far from you!

Michael - it surely will be the Domino Theory in action if one tips!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Thanks Chuck.  That may be the case here too, but I have heard 25%.  But either way, moisture can become an issue!

Howard and Susan - is that why I heard ticking when I looked at the gage?

Joy - that was one of my kids' favorites!  We did all the hand signs too.

Barbara-Jo - there is no natural gas service to this area, so these tanks are the only way to go.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Michael - think LEVEL!  That's about it.  Along with Don't Shoot Them With A Gun.

Thanks again Richie, but in this case I would settle for level!

Somewhat Rosalie.  Especially around, um, sparks and Godzilla.

Bob - the whole neighborhood has these.  I don't know if they are leased or owned, but surely the propane company has seen this every time they are filled.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

That about sums it up Mark.  Very succinctly!

Brad - good idea.  There's a hardware store in town and a pack of shims would last a long time.  They only need three at a time!

Sandy - this is a very small County, so I don't know about code enforcement.  And until now it is likely nobody has brought this up.  It's brought up now!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

I think I smell gas---do you smell gas---anybody else smell gas?  It wasn't me---I swear!

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 7 years ago

What we used to say in our Boy Scout troop was, Charlie, "the fox smells his own hole."

There, I said it...

That avatar - is that a Picasso musk ox?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay - Anything with natural gas scares me.  Had a bad experience as a child. So I would hope these people get what looks like a potentially dangerous situation corrected.

Posted by Barbara Altieri, REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale (RealtyQuest/Kinard Realty Group, Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Couldn't those just be strapped?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 7 years ago

Jay, this begs the question - why not one larger tank and bury it? Then you don't have to worry about it!

Sharon

Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) about 7 years ago

Jay, I joked about your Haiku yesterday, but I know your point... too many times we see people using things like paving stones to support equipment that needs much better support... sometimes it is the water flowing underneath the pavers that causes it to settle unevenly, sometimes it is just the weight supported...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 7 years ago

Barbara - I expect they will make this a part of the repair addendum.  And they really should be fixed.

Reubs - I suppose, but still, I think the pad needs to be replaced.  No other pad in the neighborhood settled like this one.

Frank and Sharon - that was what I said to the buyer.  It might be that the builder knows that eventually the neighborhood will get natural gas, but I really don't know.

Chris - there is a gentle slope downward from this point, so founding those tanks is essential.  In this case it is probably weight.  And I might be wrong - those may be 150 gallon tanks!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jay, while a support will cerertainly help some, the basis for this issue is the base itself, which wasn't put in properly, or deep enough.  But you already knew that

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) about 7 years ago

Hi Jay

I looks pretty spooky to me too. I woul think the fire marshal would have areal fit if he saw that...........Brad

Posted by Brad Hornshaw, Realtor, Listing Agent, Buyers Agent, Investments (Brad Hornshaw Realtor Lynnwood, Bothell, Everett) about 7 years ago

The city of Buckeye is now requiring a detail of how all propane tanks are to be secured to their concrete pad in order to get a permit.  This does make it the contractors responsibility to oversee the vendor for proper installation.

Posted by Loren Green, Phoenix Home Inspector & Designer (Greens Home Design L.L.C.) about 7 years ago

Good information. We use propane in some towns arounf here, so I run into it only occasionally. Also, wanted to say thanks for your very informative posts. They are much appreciated.

Posted by Linda Fidgeon, Make your next move your best move! (Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Page Realty) about 7 years ago

Around here they use the large tanks and place them well away from the home. Are those small tanks next to the home common in your area? Don't think I'd be comfortable with that...

Posted by The Derrick Team - Indy Metro Realtors, Your Pet Friendly Realtors (Carpenter Realtors) about 7 years ago

We have a 1,000 gallon propane tank buried in our side yard, with an access port sticking up 12" above the ground where the propane delivery crew can tap into the tank.

Were it me looking at that house to buy, I would consider having the propane company bury a 1,000 tank and take away those 100 gallon tanks.

 

Posted by Erick Blackwelder, Text or call Erick now at 703-677-1120. (Cell: 703-677-1120) about 7 years ago

Agree. All three tanks should be removed and a continuous concrete pad should be poured, not concrete pads. Further, the tanks should be at least 6 inches away from the outside of the homes exterior wall cladding. Additionally, each and every tank should be secured to prevent any movement, physically or naturally (earthquake).

The other thing I noted, why is there not one large torpedo type tank installed but three separate small tanks. Is the propane supply company raking this homeowner over the coals in renting three separate tanks instead of one large. Added to that, the propane company will have to come out more frequently to fill the 3 tanks instead of one large torpedo size. Can we say rip - off!

I sure can, seen this before.

Posted by Dave Brice (Pacific West Home Inspections) about 7 years ago

In addition to have the pad issue corrected, I personally would like to see them secured to the structure similar to the way we secure water heaters. Under the right circumstances these things can become effective bombs.

Posted by Marshall Brown, BSEE, CHI (Mid America Inspection Services, LLC) about 7 years ago

If the house is only four years old, you either have really soft soil where you are, or the builder did a poor soil site prep job. 

Around here the ground is so hard we can park really large airplanes directly on the dirt. Think B-52 size and larger.

Posted by Jon Quist, Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996 (REALTY EXECUTIVES TUCSON ELITE) about 7 years ago

I'm surprised that this isn't mentioned when someone comes to fill the tanks.  I guess they don't care.

Posted by Kate Akerly, Manhattan Beach Residential Sales (Kaminsky Group) about 7 years ago

I would think they need to be further from the house too.  Thanks for the post.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Thanks Ed.  The pad was mentioned and also the subject of the haiku the day before.  Click on the haiku word at the beginning of the post.

Brad - you are probably right!  Might even get them a fine!  He'd probably give them a period of time to rectify it, but then throw the book.

Loren - security to the pad and the pad itself are both issues here.  See my haiku the day before?

Linda - I am glad to hear you enjoy them.  We try to be instructive!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Derrick Team - I don't know.  Usually the large tanks are around here and buried.  It may be that this neighborhood is to receive a natural gas supply hook up in the near future, but I don't know.

Works for me too Erick, unless there is a natural gas supply going in in the near future.

I agree Dave.  I don't know how the tanks work, but probaly all at the same time.  And a natural gas hook up in the near future may also be in the works.

Marshall - there is a lot going on here.  Until recently nobody thought of earthquake straps for anything!  Now they are!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Jon - I have heard you lay your roads right onto the dirt out there.  This place was obviously compromised, because it is the only such sinking I saw anywhere.

Akerly - I said that too above.  That company has seen these tanks frequently for years!

Welkommen Gene.  Me too, unless they are to be replaced soon in favor of natural gas to the neighborhood.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Very good post. Thanks.

Posted by Jayson Holland, Jay Holland (Listings.com) about 7 years ago

Holy Smokes Batman, this is crazy.  What are people thinking?  Oh yeah, I forgot, no thought here!!!

Posted by Beverly Femia, Broker Realtor Stager - Greater Wilmington, NC Are (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) about 7 years ago

Yikes, I don't think I'd want to have propane tanks right up next to the house. Here, homes that are in unincorporated areas of the county have the large torpedo shaped tanks above ground, but well away from the house.

Posted by Suzi Sandore, North County San Diego Homes (RealtyONEGroup) about 7 years ago

Thanks Jayson.  Stop by every day!

Beverly - they have not been in the house about five months, but I suspect these tanks were leaning before they left!

Suzi - not much danger of those tanks exploding or anything, but falling over is a big deal!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Hi Jay,  Where do you find all these?  Are you sure you don't stage them for your posts? lol

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) about 7 years ago

Sure Bob.  I am always going about moving 1000 pounds to create a blog photo!     ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Propane tanks are not allowed to be attached or placed close to the home out here but those could use some help making them safer.

Posted by Michael Singh,Broker (Singh Real Estate) about 7 years ago

Thanks Michael.  These sure need some help being made safer!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

Wow, I never realized how much you need to consider when heating with propane. Thanks for the heads up and hopefully this situation has been resolved with your prodding. That brings up an interesting question - should (or even can) home inspectors report unsafe situations to the government as noone is ever obligated to take the actions recommended in a home inspector's report?

Posted by Tina Gleisner, Home Tips for Women (Home Tips for Women) about 7 years ago

I have in the past Tina, but only after hearing that nothing was done about a particular problem that I considered very dangerous.  That sort of thing is kind of beyond my purview, but I have spoken with local jurisdictional inspectors who say they appreciate input like that from home inspectors.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 7 years ago

I was nervous for the homeowner when I saw your title! Wow, the things you see! You have eventful days in the "field"!!

Posted by Sylvie Stuart, Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta (Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765) almost 7 years ago

Wow, Sylvie, you found an oldie but a goodie!  I do.  And these tanks were on the verge of falling over.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

That is not safe. They need to secured. They do blowup and cause substantial damage. Nice catch.

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) about 6 years ago

When they lean, they lean Wayne!  You sure are going through a lot of my posts!  Glad you enjoy them so much!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

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