Since most homeowners are not plumbing experts, it’s easy to end up in violation of local plumbing codes if you make repairs on your own. Your DIY repairs may seem fine for months or even years, but when it comes time to sell your home and have it inspected, you may find expensive repairs need to be done.
Building Codes Must Be Met
Building codes are created to keep people safe and protect residential and commercial properties. Even seemingly small code violations can make your plumbing less effective and eventually lead to serious problems.
If your plumbing is outdated and not up to current code, there is no reason to be concerned unless there is an immediate safety issue. Older buildings are protected by grandfather clauses.
If you are making ordinary repairs that don’t alter the existing plumbing system, you may not need a permit. However, if you are planning to remodel your bathroom or kitchen, you will likely be required to upgrade parts of your plumbing system that have fallen out of code.
Plumbing code violations aren’t always intentional. If you live in an older home, there is a good chance your plumbing may not meet current code. The National Uniform Plumbing Code covers the entire nation and each state regularly updates their state codes based on changes to the national plumbing code.
A licensed plumbing professional will know local permit and code requirements. Having plumbing repairs and remodeling done by a licensed plumber is the best way to ensure that your plumbing works properly and passes required inspections.
The first step of any kitchen or bathroom remodeling project should include researching local plumbing codes. In most areas, homeowners are required to obtain a permit in order to perform extensive plumbing repairs or renovations. Failing to obtain the proper permits can devalue a property and result in fines for the homeowner.
If you’re working with an independent contractor or handyman, insist they pull the proper permits as well. A professional plumber will always obtain the correct permits but some DIY homeowners overlook this step.
Plumbing Problems that Must Be Fixed to Pass Inspection
Here are nine common plumbing mistakes that lead to failed inspection. These will need to be corrected before you’ll be able to remodel or sell your home.
1. Incorrectly Installed Sink Traps
In most modern homes, there is a P-trap installed under bathtubs, sinks, and household appliances that is used to drain waste water. This plumbing fixture traps debris that has drained from the sink and prevents it from forming a clog deep within the plumbing system. It also stops sewer gases from passing into the home.
S-traps, which don’t include venting, are obsolete and almost always violate local plumbing codes.
2. Improperly Sized Drain Pipes
For any type of drain, the piping needs to be a specific size. Many code violations are the result of drain pipes that are too small for their functions or the drain they’re attached to. Whenever repiping, make sure replacement pipes are within current plumbing code standards.
3. Incorrect Installation of Hot Water Heaters
Modern water heaters have numerous safety devices included in their designs to prevent a catastrophe in the event of a failure. The pressure relief valve is designed to automatically open and vent the pressure if a failure occurs. An improperly installed water heater relief valve can lead to a buildup of pressure and an eventual rupture which can cause property damage as well as serious injuries.
4. Insufficient Space Around Toilets
When installing a toilet, there needs to be at least 15 inches from the center point to a side finished wall. There should also be at least 18 inches of space in front of the toilet. These measurements need to be factored into the planning, especially if the toilet is going in before drywall is installed.
5. Insufficient or Inaccessible Cleanouts
Drain cleanouts provide convenient access points to a drain pipe. Plumbing codes require clean outs at various points so clogs can be easily removed. The number of required cleanouts depends on the size of the plumbing system.
6. Nonfunctioning Water Shutoffs
In addition to the main shut off valve for a home, plumbing codes require shutoff valves that control different portions of the house. All faucets and toilets must have individual valves. Valves should be metal ball valves. Hoses should be braided stainless steel flex lines with metal connectors.
7. Improper Venting
Exhaust fans are effective ways to remove steam and odors from bathrooms and kitchens. Exhaust fans are supposed to be connected to a vent that goes to the roof or side of the building. Too often, exhaust fans are improperly installed so that the pipe ends inside an attic or other unfinished space. This allows heat and humidity to become trapped inside the space which leads to mold, mildew, and moisture damage.
8. Improper Slope of Drain Pipes
Drain pipes rely on gravity to move wastewater into the sewage system. If drain pipes are not sloped downward, wastewater will not properly drain. Standard practice calls for drain pipes to have a ⅛ inch per foot pitch for 3 inch or larger pipes.
Improper pitch can cause leaks and slow drainage of sinks and bathtubs. Without the proper slope, backups can occur, resulting in wastewater backing up into living spaces. Improperly sloped drain pipes can cause significant damage over time.
9. Faulty GFCI Protection
This is an electrical issue but relates to kitchens and bathrooms and is important for safety. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (or GFCIs) are electrical outlets that automatically cut the power if there’s too much moisture or a change in electrical current. GFCIs are required in kitchens, bathrooms, outdoors and in other areas of your home where water is present.
To check if your outlets are up to code, you can use an inexpensive GFCI tester tool to test them.
Trust the Local Plumbing Experts
The experts at Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter have over 30 years of experience in the Los Gatos area. Our trained plumbing technicians have the expertise to make sure your plumbing repairs and installations meet all local code requirements.
We know that plumbing problems can happen day or night. That’s why Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter offers emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.