Category Archives: Plumbing

Check out what’s happening in the local construction scene

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The DJC has published its annual Construction & Equipment special section. It’s a mix of industry articles, profiles of local award-winning projects and a few interviews with the contractors who make it all happen.

Read all about it at www.djc.com/special/construct2015

 

Huge apartment fire blamed on maintenance and light-weight wood

 

apartment-building-fire

(This is the second fire at this complex since 2000 – while the project was under construction.)

EDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Maintenance workers fixing a leak and using a torch is what started the massive fire at an Edgewater, N.J., apartment complex fire, officials said Thursday night.

As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, Edgewater police Chief William Skidmore said at a news conference the workers were using a blow-torch to make repairs to a leak at the Avalon at Edgewater complex, when a plumber accidentally ignited the fire in a wall.

Skidmore said the workers tried to put it out themselves and delayed calling for help for about 15 minutes. It is unclear how many workers were involved or where exactly the work was being done.

“They tried to suppress it themselves, and then they called their supervisor, which gave the fire a head start,” Skidmore said.

Fire Chief Thomas Jacobson said the delay in calling 911 put his crews at a disadvantage, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

“It takes four minutes for a room to be fully engulfed and flash over so 15 minutes can make a big difference,” Jacobson said.

Officials also said Thursday a lightweight wood construction contributed to the fire, leaving hundreds of residents permanently displaced.

Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland said a local state of emergency remains in effect due to the fire at The Avalon at Edgewater, which broke out around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and raged for hours.

“It was a long and challenging night and I think every one of our first responders really stepped up to the challenge,” McPartland said.

McPartland said it was because of the good work of all the first responders that no lives were lost.

“I mean, I saw four brave men go into that fire and pull a woman out while the façade was coming down virtually on top of them,” he said.

The fire was brought under control by Thursday morning, but crews were still putting out hot spots and heavy smoke could be seen billowing from the structure even in the evening.

Jacobson said the fire appears to have started on the first floor and quickly spread through the floors and walls because of the building’s lightweight wood construction.

“If it was made out of concrete and cinder block, we wouldn’t have this problem,” he said, adding the building complied with construction codes.

Jacobson said the sprinklers were working and went off, but they were no match for these flames.

“It doesn’t get every area,” he said. “It gets the common areas where you can egress and get out. It gets your apartment. All the little voids inside every nook and cranny in the walls? No.”

Jacobson said crews simultaneously battled the fire while doing door-to-door searches and pulling people from the balconies.

“We had a crew trapped on the balcony with a victim; we had to rescue them with ground ladders from the back of the building. That was my concern first, not the building,” he said.

Firefighters from across New Jersey and from the FDNY helped battle the blaze. It was raised to more than five alarms Wednesday night and grew so large that the flames were visible from Midtown Manhattan.

As CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported, the Bergen County Arson Squad investigated where and how the fire started, even though it later turned out to be accidental.

“A fire of this magnitude is an automatic response for the arson squad,” Skidmore said.

Schools were closed Thursday and will remain closed Friday. McPartland said access to some roads around the building would be restricted.

In all, 240 units were destroyed, permanently displacing about 500 residents, McPartland said. An additional 520 residents from other Avalon buildings have also been displaced, McPartland said.

“Don’t know where to even start,” resident Seoung Ju Won told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell.

“It was like a volcano eruption, really,” said resident Angela Nyagu. “That’s what I watched on TV before, how volcanoes erupt. Now I witnessed that myself.”

Among the residents of the complex was Yankees announcer John Sterling, who talked to CBS2 about his experience.

“I walked to the building and smelled smoke, and I went out to my floor where my apartment is, and the smoke was so bad I couldn’t see, and I thought, ‘Hey, we’d better get out of here,’” Sterling said.

And many residents, including Limor Yoskowitz-Frinomas, were still waiting to hear whether their homes were destroyed.

“We’re hoping for the best,” she said. “My kids are OK, so I’m OK, and we’ll take it from there.”

There were no reports of any missing persons, but McPartland said two civilians and two firefighters suffered minor injuries. He said some pets were rescued from the blaze, but some did die in the fire.

One woman told CBS2’s Meg Baker that her dogs were both killed.

“I saw gulfing flames coming out of the building, and unfortunately, I have two dogs that perished in the fire – Hailey and Griffin,” the woman said.

This isn’t the first time the very same apartment complex has been engulfed in flames.

In August of 2000, the complex was under construction when a fast-moving fire tore through it. The flames also destroyed a dozen surrounding homes, displacing up to 70 people.

The 2000 fire was ruled accidental by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. No deaths or serious injuries were reported.

L&I doing the home show circuit

The Department of Labor & Industries will have a booth at 18 home shows this winter/spring throughout the state to inform homeowners about hiring the right construction contractors.

L&I says home show attendees in search of a contractor should arrive with a plan that includes:

• Know what you want. Whether planning to update your bathroom or build a fence, write a list of the features you must have versus the features you’d like to have. Bring magazine pictures of desired features.
• Talk to a variety of vendors and contractors. Bring a list of questions about your project and ask contractors about their experience.
• Confirm prospective contractors are registered with the state at www.ProtectMyHome.net. Registered contractors must have a business license and a current certificate of liability insurance and a bond on file with L&I, providing some recourse if the project goes bad. Just because contractors have a booth doesn’t mean they’re registered.

The first event, the Tacoma Home & Garden Show, is running until Sunday inside the Tacoma Dome. Admission is $12.

Don’t spend Black Friday shopping for plumbers

One of the busiest days for plumbers is the day after Thanksgiving.

What brings the plumbers out? All that animal fat, cooking grease and poultry skin that ends up down the drain or in the garbage disposal. Those extra helpings of scraps and grease clog pipes and extra house guests put additional pressure on the plumbing system.

If it’s too late to heed that warning, the state Department of Labor & Industries is telling consumers to take their time when choosing a plumber.

L&I says state law requires plumbers to be certified for jobs inside buildings. Plumbers also must work for a company that’s registered as a general contractor or a specialty plumbing contractor. Registration ensures the contractor is bonded and insured if something goes wrong.

Here are some more tips from L&I:
•    Get three bids for the job.
•    Before calling plumbing companies, check whether they’re registered contractors at www.protectmyhome.net.
•    Ask each company for the name of the plumber who will do the work. See if the plumber is certified at www.protectmyhome.net. Plumbing certification isn’t required for workers pumping out septic systems.
•    Ask to see a certification card when the plumber arrives.
•    If it’s a trainee, the worker must have an active trainee card and must be supervised by a certified plumber at the jobsite.

L&I recommends people find a good plumber before an emergency, then keep the contact information handy.

UW students go for green

The UW team stands in front of Haggett Hall. From left to right: Cyrus Naimi, Brian Taylor, Matt Nugent, Jay Danner, Ryan Hunter and Aaron Yamasaki.

The Huskies are out to defend their winning ways at the Green Energy Challenge sponsored by the National Electrical Contractors of America. In 2009, UW students took first place in the inaugural year of the competition, and were second last year.

This year, the competition involves analyzing a student housing facility to identify retrofits that will reduce energy use. The UW students chose Haggett Hall for their project.

After assessing the condition of the dorm, the team developed a proposal to install automated occupancy sensors, energy-saving light fixtures, and a system to capture heat from sewer lines for reuse as building heat. It also suggested installation of solar panels and insulated exterior cladding.

The students will submit their proposal at the end of the month. A panel will judge the team against similar proposals by students from other universities and pick three finalists in August.

Finalists will present their proposals in October at NECA’s convention in San Diego.

Go Dawgs!

Historic renovation fair coming Saturday

Photo by Mary Randlett

Learn how it’s done from 28 historic building renovation experts on Saturday at the first ever Historic Seattle Renovation Fair.

The experts include architects, contractors, engineers, specialty trades people and suppliers. They will talk about remodeling older homes, earthquake retrofitting and historically appropriate window weatherization for old buildings.

The fair will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Washington Hall, which is south of Seattle University at 153 14th Ave. Cost is $5 (free for Historic Seattle members). For more information, visit Historic Seattle.

If you can’t wait, Historic Seattle is holding a pre-fair event tonight at Rejuvenation Station, which makes and sells historic lighting and hardware reproductions. Tonight’s free event is 6-8 p.m. at 2910 First Ave. S. in Seattle.

Largest plumbing recall in U.S. history coming?

Consumer advocacy group America’s Watchdog says it is ramping up for what could be the largest defective plumbing recall in U.S. history. The product in question is a brass fitting inserted into cross-linked polyethylene tubing.

“We think there are literally 100,000s of U.S. homes that have a specific defective plumbing product called Uponor, or RTI P Pex, or MB Pex fittings, and according to court papers these will fail,” the group said in a press release. “We’d call this your basic homeowner nightmare — because we think the fittings will continue to fail, and fail, and fail — unless they are all replaced.

“Plumbers, who have recently repaired an Uponor, or its wholly-owned subsidiary Radiant Technology’s P Pex, or MB Pex brass plumbing fitting, should contact their clients, and ask them to contact us immediately.”

America’s Watchdog says the fittings are advertised and warranted for as long as 25 years, but some have failed months after installation. Failed fittings can cause water damage to walls, floors and personal property. The fittings allegedly fail when they are exposed to water because of a chemical reaction known as dezincification, which results in reduced water flow and leaks.

The fittings are identified by a “P Pex” or “MB Pex” stamped on their side.

The investigation by America’s Watchdog involves homes and buildings constructed nationwide from 2004 to 2007. For more information, contact the group’s Construction Defect Center.

It’s turkey day, did you call the plumber yet?

According to the state Department of Labor and Industries, the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. It seems washing all that grease and food down the drain, plus extra house guests, puts a strain on the plumbing.

Before hiring a plumber, L&I recommends the following:

  1. Ask the plumber for his or her state license that shows they are a certified residential or journeyman plumber.
  2. Make sure the company the plumber works for is registered with the state as a general contractor or specialty plumbing contractor. You can use L&I’s contractor look up tool to find that information.
  3. Make sure plumber trainees still learning the trade are supervised by a certified plumber while on the job. That is a requirement.

My advice: Don’t pour grease down the sink. My last plumbing bill was better associated with Halloween.