Look out below: Danger lurks underground from aging gas pipes

About every other day over the past decade, a gas leak in the United States has destroyed property, hurt someone or killed someone, a USA TODAY Network investigation finds. The most destructive blasts have killed at least 135 people, injured 600 and caused $2 billion in damages since 2004. • The explosion that leveled part of a New York City block in East Harlem in March, killing eight and injuring 48 more. • A blast that flattened the concrete floors of an apartment building in Birmingham, Ala., killing one woman in December. • A flash fireball in 2012 that left an Austin man dead, a scarred foundation where his house once stood and debris strewn across yards of his neighbors. The gas leaks that fueled those blasts are not uncommon. Neither is the cast-iron pipe — some of it more than a century old — that is the chief suspect in each of those three explosions and many others, according to the investigation by USA TODAY and affiliated newspapers and TV stations across the country. And those totals don’t include tens of thousands more hazardous gas leaks that were caught before disaster struck. The causes are many and complex, and often outside of the utility company’...

6 Crucial Plumbing Facts That Could Make or Break Your Bathroom Remodel

Planning to remodel your bathroom into the oasis of your dreams? Then you’d better get a handle on your plumbing. Even if you don’t see the pipes connected to your sink or shower, understanding how they work is essential if you want your bathroom renovation to turn out all right (and within budget). That’s why, in the latest installment of our “Dream Bathroom Remodeling Guide,” we break down everything you need to know about plumbing into bite-size pieces. Read on for some surprises! In the past, most bathroom plumbing pipes were made of cast iron or galvanized metal. However, these pipes won’t work with many of the newfangled, water-saving setups like, say, low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilets will save about 17,000 gallons of water yearly. (Note: Flushing a standard toilet uses about 38% of an average household’s water.) The catch is, they require PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) pipes. But updating to these kinds of pipes is both easy and affordable. “These new types of pipes are flexible—and thus very simple and inexpensive to install,” says Cassidy Melhorn, a pipe design engineer and founder of Knoxvi...