Ask The Expert

Hello Robert:

I removed a large “L” shaped brick BBQ from my patio to make more room. The concrete beneath needs to be removed and new concrete poured to match. A natural gas line and electrical conduit are in the slab that is being re-poured. Can I just cap the lines below grade and pour concrete over them? Thanks,

Mike C.

Hi Mike,

You can bury the gas line and bare conduit, but any live source must be terminated and disconnected. You can’t leave live utilities abandoned underground.

The first step is to terminate the source. Disconnect the gas line from the meter. If the gas line was left live, it could eventually leak and blow natural gas underground.

Pull all the wire out of the conduit to prevent them from being accidentally reconnected in the future. I would put a nylon cord inside the conduit to pull new wire in case you ever want to make that line active again.

Hi Robert,

You said call Dig Alert when digging, but how does that work? How deep does it have to be to call them? Do they come out and meet with me? Are there any fees? Thank you, I enjoy your column.

Anto B.

Hi Anto,

Call Dig Alert at 811 two working days in advance before you do any digging. They will give you a Dig Alert number. You’ll need to have the proposed excavation area delineated. Take a can of white marking paint and write “USA” in several areas with arrows showing where you are going to dig. You don’t need to go wild and turn it into graffiti, just make it clear so that all of the various agencies know exactly where to look for underground utilities.

Sometimes these utilities can be a high priority facility. We received the following notice earlier this week regarding one of our projects: “This Locate Request is near an AT&T DISTRIBUTION CRITICAL SUBSURFACE INSTALLATION INFRASTRUCTURE that provides Switching, Routing, and Transmission services to the surrounding area and around the world. Damaging these facilities could interrupt thousands of services.” Can you imagine damaging something of this magnitude? Based on this warning, we know that we will have to dig by hand and proceed with extreme caution.

Hi Robert,

I serve on the board of our association. We had a tree that lifted a wall which caused it to lean a bit. The grout between the blocks is cracked and it is not perfectly straight, but other than that it looks good. I pushed on it pretty hard and it didn’t move. I personally think that as long as we repair the damaged grout we’ll be fine. The rest of the board is thinking we need to knock the whole wall down, 150 feet long or more and rebuild. What’s your opinion? Thank you,

Alberto G.

Hi Alberto,

Just because a wall is leaning a little because of a tree root does not necessarily mean it will come down.

To be safe, my recommendation would be to bring out a masonry contractor to provide an inspection. If he says you only need to tear out part of the wall or just repair the grout lines, then you’ve saved a sizable amount of money from an unnecessary rebuild.

Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 30 years experience as a Commercial, General, Electrical, and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Ask the Expert” are not to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been made.

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