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Q.I am remodeling a single-family house with a full basement. The furnace and water heater are located in the basement. The local fire marshal said that it's okay to locate propane appliances such as furnaces and water heaters in the basement. He cites the International Residential Code (chapter 24) and the National Fire Prevention Association LPG code. The local building inspector, however, cites the Uniform Plumbing Code, which he says disallows liquid-fired appliances below grade, including in a basement. UPC 1213.6 is specific only to water heaters. Who is right?

A.Mike Casey, a licensed plumbing contractor in California and Connecticut and coauthor of Code Check (Plumbing and HVAC) responds: Sounds like the fire marshal and the code official need to chat. In most municipalities, the building official has the final say when it comes to residential property modifications. Additionally, the codes the fire marshal cites may not be adopted in your town.

The 2000 Uniform Plumbing Code, section 1213.6, does indeed prohibit water heaters from being installed in a basement or pit where "heavier than air gas might collect and form a flammable mixture." The 2000 Uniform Mechanical Code, section 304.6, states about the same for all liquid-fuel gas appliances.

I have known some jurisdictions to allow the installation in basements as long as there are provisions to allow unburned gas to drain away (like a pipe) and/or an automatic sensor and gas shutoff. You might ask the building official whether he would approve an alternative method like that.