Liz Crenshaw's Guide to Consumer Issues, Recalls and More

House Explosion Reminder of DIY Dangers

Rockville home explosion a dangerous reminder

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    NEWSLETTERS

    There were some terrifying moments in Rockville, Md., Wednesday morning when a "do-it-yourself" project led to a house explosion.

    Residents of a Rockville neighborhood woke up early Wednesday to the sound of an explosion and went outside to find their neighbors' house leveled -- and later, many said their first thought on the scene was, “Was it a natural gas explosion?”

    Turns out their suspicions were correct.

    Fire officials blame the blast on the occupants' attempt to replace a gas-powered clothes dryer with an electric one. Somehow the do-it-yourself project allowed gas to leak into the home. When a spark hit the gas buildup, it caused an explosion that leveled the house and sent both occupants to the hospital.

    The story is a powerful reminder of what can happen when do-it-yourself projects should be handled by professionals. A natural gas repair in your home is pretty clearly an area where homeowners or renters need to tread carefully.

    The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), which writes the regulations for Montgomery and Prince George's counties, clearly has in its code that homeowners are not to do certain natural gas work. In the WSSC amendments to the National Code it states:

    "Work Not Allowed: (Section 106.11.5) the following work shall not be performed by homeowners: ...Gasfitting installations, including the installation or replacement of gas-fired water heater or appliance."

    In addition to the potential dangers to yourself and your neighbors, there is another consideration: Would your homeowner’s insurance policy cover damage if the work done was against building code?

    It's always a good idea to contact the home improvement commission, Washington Gas or the WSSC when considering any home improvement, so you can determine whether you need to obtain permits and what, exactly, the codes allow homeowners to do on their own.

    You can contact the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at 410-230-6309 or 888-218-5925 or go to its website to determine the regulations and to find out if a contractor you are considering hiring is licensed.