MANSFIED - This year, North Texas has seen its share of storms that has resulted in many family homes in need of new roofs.
But during repair work on homes in Mansfield, some families said they discovered a potentially dangerous problem in their attics.
Michael Ebert, of Mansfield, said he called a roofing contractor in early July to make roof repairs. After going on vacation, he returned to find his house was filled with natural gas.
"I got in right away, opened up some doors for ventilation and called the gas company," he said..
Minutes after making the call to the gas company, he found the source of the gas leak in his attic. As it turns out, it was the roofers making repairs while he was gone that hit one of his gas lines by puncturing it with a nail.
Ebert said he also noticed some other surprises while checking out the attic.
"I was just kind of shocked by the way they installed the gas line because it was flushed actually at the decking of the roof," he said. "This is common sense. You don't put a gas line flushed against a roof."
Ebert shared his story with some of his neighbors, which was when he quickly found out he wasn't alone. Chelsea Escalon, a mother of two, had to evacuate her home weeks earlier after roofers hit a gas line in her attic.
"It had been leaking at that point 15 hours at least," she said.
She also noticed that part of her gas lines were too close to the roof decking.
"It can't be done this way," she said. "The pipe can't run along the roof decking. That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard of."
Mansfield city council member Cory Hoffman said he also had the same problem. He kept a piece of the damaged line that was hit four times. The leak in his home went unnoticed for hours.
"The scariest part was the next day when we realized that we slept through it," he said.
Corrugated stainless steel tubing, or CSST, is widely used across the nation. The flexible gas piping system is installed in nearly all homes built since the late '80s.
Phil Farmer, an independent inspector, said he has seen the product in attics plenty of times in his career.
"Very common that's the path of least resistance for gas lines, and you want to run them to access fireplaces to appliances," he said. "You have to run them throughout the attic and the walls."< /p>
But Farmer said what's not common is seeing them so close to roofing decks.
"Any time that there is a natural gas leak, a safety issue, it needs to be addressed and find a better way to do it," he said.
According to installation guides by some CSST manufacturers, the pipe should be routed in areas that will minimize the opportunity for physical damage and or installed in areas where the tubing is free to move to avoid a potential puncture threat. The manuals state that mechanical strike protection must be used if tubing is routed in locations which are within three inches of a potential threat such as drills, screws or nails.
In the incidents in Mansfield, the homeowners said strike protection was not installed in the area where the lines were struck and the piping was pushed against the roof deck,
"It is not protected by any nail plates or anything that would prevent a nail from coming through and puncturing that line," Ebert said.
The city of Mansfield is investigating four similar incidents where roofers punctured the gas lines this year. The cases involve different builders, different roofing companies and different CSST or flexible piping system manufacturers.
Mansfield spokesperson Belinda Willis said installers and inspectors did what they were supposed to do and followed residential codes. However, she said they are looking to see if any changes are needed. The city is looking at the installations, materials roofers used and every possible factor that could have contributed to the issue.
"The safety of our citizens is a priority," Willis said. "Our inspectors got together and looked at the situation and exchanged information to see why it might be happening ... This is an issue now so they can take that into consideration."
News 8 contacted two of the companies who built the homes where the gas lines were punctured.
D.R. Horton did not respond to calls or e-mail, but the president of Mercedes Homes of Texas, Stewart Parker, gave a statement.
"Mercedes Homes and our trade partners make every effort to meet or surpass local building codes and accepted building practices," read the statement. "These standards were met in this situation. Despite the fact that all local building codes were met and the home was outside of the warranty provided at time of purchase, Mercedes Homes has approved and completed repairs to the property. It is difficult for a homebuilder to anticipate events that occurred on this home. However, we are working with our trade partners to ensure that additional safeguards are in place to minimize the possibility of this event occurring in the future."
Leo Wadley, a representative for the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas, said roofers are unable to know or see the lines near the underside of roof decks.
The association recommends that homeowners call a licensed professional plumber to look at the lines before a re-roofing or remodeling project. Farmer said homeowners should heed that advice.
"Common sense would prevail," he said. "And maybe have a plumbing test or have a plumber look at the gas lines to see if there are any leaks."
Back at Ebert's house, crews sent by his builder, Mercedes Homes, repaired the gas lines in his attic. He said he hopes his experience brings more awareness and wants cities and everyone in the building industry to pay extra attention before tragedy strikes.
"I don't want a ticking time bomb to go off somewhere ... ,"he said. "It's not about the money [or] who is going to pay for the repair. It's about how many houses have been built like this?"
Hoffman said he plans to address the issue with the city council to see if any code changes are needed. The city is also passing along the information to the International Code Council, which is a membership association dedicated to building safety and fire prevention and develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings including homes and schools.
Most cities, counties and states that have adopted codes choose the International Codes developed by the ICC, but they are not required. Cites, counties and states have the power to change their codes. Anyone can make a suggestion to the ICC for a code change.
While Fort Worth inspectors have not seen any problems, News 8 learned that the city will be holding a session for its inspectors with a CSST manufacturer representative next Monday for additional training.
For further questions, industry experts News 8 spoke with advised homeowners to contact their local building departments and inspectors.