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Ask the Expert

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How do you get a fire hydrant near your house?

Your Home Improvements

Posted: August 29, 2008 9:12 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 
Hey Robert,
I live in a rural area. One of my neighbors had a small kitchen fire this weekend. We put it out very quickly and there was not a lot of damage done. I started looking and realized there are no fire hydrants located anywhere on our street.  Would this be something that we would be charged for, or how much would it cost if we hired someone to install one?
Brian C.

Hello Brian,
Do you live on a public or private road? Public streets are designed with enough hydrants to safely provide for all structures on that street. If you live on a private street or driveway, then maybe there are hydrants on the adjoining streets that would allow for pumper trucks to come in line and fill their tanks then pump the water on your street. 

To request the installation of a hydrant, you would need to contact the city and the water department or purveyor that serves your area. Usually the water department works with the public and the city oversees private domains. You and your community would have to obtain both building and plumbing permits from the city, and adhere to the BMP’s — Best Management Policies as required. You would also have to cover all fees and design criterion before your request would go to the bidding process. 

You would also have to decide where you want the hydrant installed and the closer to the main, the better. Typically, for a connection run of six to seven feet from the main to the hydrant, the cost for the materials and labor is about $9,000.

Hey Robert,
How can I fight this? I’m building a guest house on my property. It’s a small 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom and is about 500 sq. ft. I decided to do the right thing and make it legal. I paid for the plans and the permits. I dug out for the foundation and laid all of the rebar exactly the way I was supposed to. I called the inspector and he did not want to come out on the weekend, so I took a day off from work so I could meet him at 10 a.m. and scheduled the concrete truck to get there at noon. The inspector never showed. By 12:30, the concrete man says he has to go and he can either pump it or take it but either way I’m going to be charged for the concrete.  So, I take pictures of everything and pour the concrete. The inspector calls me that afternoon saying he got tied up and shows up the next day. Now he’s telling me to break everything out because he didn’t see it and he says maybe the pictures were taken at another job site! So, where do I go from here?
Ed S.

Hello Ed,
If you want to build that guest house, you’re going to have to rip out that foundation and start over. That inspector works for the Department of Building and Safety and what they say, goes. If he didn’t actually see the steel in the trench, he’s not going to sign. 

 When the inspector signs off on a job, he is basically swearing that the work is up to code. If the work doesn’t meet with his satisfaction, then that job stops and that’s as far as it goes until they’re repaired. He’s got the final word.  

I’ve heard of horror stories like this, and that’s where experience comes in.  I know this is a costly mistake, but now you know and next time you won’t schedule so tight.

The bottom line is, if you don’t have a signature on your sign-off card, you do not proceed.

Robert,
I’ve got an old house with Buss fuses in the electrical panel. There is no more room to add any more fuses, and the ones I have are burning up all of the time. I have to turn the television off when I run the microwave. Have you ever heard of putting a penny on the fuse?
Joe D.

Hello Joe,
Never put a penny behind a fuse. It acts as a conductor and the current would go through the penny and by-pass the fuse. Instead of the fuse popping, the wire would burn. So, you’d save the fuse but lose the house.

Personally, I’d get rid of those fuses and join the 21st century. I’d come in with a 200 amp service and get it over with. You could go with 125 amps, but the difference in price between 125 and 200 amps is only about $30.

With a 200 amp service, if ever you decide to add to the house or put in a sub-panel for a pool later on, you’ll have plenty of power. It would probably cost you about $1,500 to have it installed by a qualified electrician.

Dear Robert,
In my dining room, I have wall to wall, floor to ceiling mirrors. How can I take those down without breaking them?
Amanda T.

Hello Amanda,
 Well, if you’re superstitious I’d hire someone else to do it. The odds of pulling those mirrors down without breaking them are slim to none.

There are not a lot of options. If you are going to try this yourself, be aware this is very dangerous. Be sure to protect your eyes, face, hands and wear long sleeves, long pants and boots. You’re going to want to be extremely careful. 

Those mirrors are stuck to the walls with mirror mastic. This is some tough stuff.  It dries harder than concrete. Start very slowly with a pry bar because the chances are they will shatter in your hands. Work your way around the mirror and hope that the mastic pulls away from the drywall. Otherwise, it’s just a lose-lose deal and you’re going to have to break them off. If so, remember those mirrors may not be made with safety glass. This means they will break off in large, very sharp and jagged pieces.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years’ experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and 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. Send questions to: Robert@IMSConstruction.com.

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