QDEAR BARRY: We replaced the gas water heater in the underground garage of our apartment building, but the building inspector will not approve the installation. The raised platform is 15 inches high; the inspector insists on an 18-inch platform to comply with code. The problem involves the location of the water supply connections. We cannot raise the platform without costly alterations to these pipes. Is there any way we can be granted an exception to the 18-inch platform requirement? -- Srewolf

ADEAR SREWOLF: The building inspector's demand for an 18-inch platform is based on a common misreading of the Uniform Plumbing Code. Section 510.1 of the code says: "Water heaters generating a glow, spark or flame capable of igniting flammable vapors may be installed in a garage, provided the pilots, burners or heating elements and switches are at least eighteen (18) inches above the floor level."

This does not say the water heater must be on an 18-inch platform. It says the source of ignition must be 18 inches above the garage floor. And because pilot lights, gas burners and electric heating elements are located several inches above the base of a water heater, an 18-inch platform is not necessary to raise those components to the height specified by code. In the case of your gas water heater, if the pilot and burner are at least three inches above the base of the fixture, then a 15-inch platform will elevate the flames at least 18 inches above the floor.

Ask the inspector to show you this paragraph in the code book. Then both of you can examine the burner to determine whether it is at the required height above the floor.

DEAR BARRY: The house next door has been vacant for nearly two years due to mold. The owners are in litigation with the insurance company, and no resolution appears in sight. We are trying to sell our home and are wondering what we should disclose to buyers. In view of the unresolved lawsuit, perhaps we should stay put rather than selling. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated. -- Mark

DEAR MARK: That the home next door has a mold problem does not necessarily jeopardize the safety of your home, but convincing prospective buyers of this may not be easy. The paranoia regarding mold will inevitably sway some buyers. Therefore, full disclosure of the situation is essential to avoid liability.

If you decide to sell your home, have a mold survey performed by a qualified professional. If the findings show no mold in your home, the lab report can be used as part of your seller disclosure. Simply tell prospective buyers that the home next door has a problem but that yours has been tested and was found to be free of related problems.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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