Most people are not professional plumbers. Developing DIY skills is a great idea, but if you attempt to make repairs, you can violate local codes. A DIY repair could hold for several months or longer, but when it’s time to sell your home and an inspection is needed, you could be surprised with a large repair bill. Building codes are essential to protect lives and property, and even small violations can affect the performance and the efficiency of your home plumbing system. Before you remodel or sell your home, here are nine plumbing mistakes that can cause a code violation and a failed inspection.
1. Incorrectly Sized Drain Pipes
Every drain needs pipes that are a specific size, and this is a source of many plumbing code violations. When drain pipes are too small to accommodate their functions, or they are not a good match for an attached drain, it can cause problems. These problems typically occur when DIY repiping is attempted to save money. But, a professional plumber can get the job right the first time and they will ensure that the replacement pipes conform with the current plumbing codes.
2. Bad Hot Water Heater Installations
New water heaters have a number of built-in safety devices to avoid catastrophic problems, if they fail. A pressure relief valve opens automatically to vent built up pressure, in the event of a failure. If the pressure relief valve is not installed properly, it can cause a buildup of pressure leading to an explosion that can cause serious injuries and extensive property damage.
3. Inaccessible and Insufficient Drain Cleanouts
The drain cleanouts allow easy access to the drain pipe at designated points. Modern plumbing codes require you to have the cleanouts located at these points, for the easy removal of drain clogs. The number of drain cleanouts that you need will depend on the size of your home plumbing system. This is a prime example of a plumbing code violation that’s easy to miss, if you don’t have formal training to be a professional plumber.
4. A Lack of Space Around Your Toilets
When a toilet is installed, there should be at least 15” of space from the center point to the nearest side wall. At the front of the toilet, you need 18” of clear space for easy access. A professional plumber will factor these measurements into the planning of a bathroom to avoid a code violation. This is especially important if the toilet is installed prior to the installation of drywall. Failing to plan for this can lead to an expensive mistake.
5. Badly Installed Sink Traps
Modern homes tend to have a P-trap installed under the sinks, tubs and other home appliances and plumbing fixtures that drain waste water. The P-trap is designed to trap any debris that falls into the drain to prevent it from going deeper into the pipe, where it can form drain clogs. The bend of the pipe is filled with water, and this helps to prevent foul smelling sewer gases from entering your home. Some older homes may have S-traps which cannot vent gases, they are obsolete now and they will always lead to a local plumbing code violation. If you have S-traps installed or a badly installed P-trap, it can lead to foul odors, frequent clogs and an expensive repair bill later. Contact your local professional plumber, and they can replace them for you now.
6. Malfunctioning Water Shutoff Valves
Every home needs a main shutoff valve to meet local plumbing codes. But, there should be other shutoff valves located throughout your home to halt the flow of water in an emergency situation. Each faucet and toilet should have an individual metal ball valve, and the hoses need to be the stain steel flex lines with appropriate metal connectors to conform with the plumbing codes.
7. Incorrect Exhaust Fan Installations
The exhaust fans are needed to remove odors and steam from your kitchen and bathrooms. The exhaust fan should be connected to a vent that leads out of the home to the side or roof of the property. In certain cases, the exhaust fans are improperly installed and the pipe terminates in the attic or another unfinished space. This causes the heat to be trapped in that location, the humidity increases and this can cause moisture damage and mold growth.
8. Wrong Drain Pipe Slope Angles
A drain pipe requires a slope to move the waste water into the sewage system using gravity alone. Without this downward slope, the waste water will not drain efficiently which can cause water leaks and slow drainage issues. Eventually, a sewer backup could occur, and wastewater will move back into the home, where it can cause water damage. Good plumbing practice calls for a drain pipe slope of ¼” per 1 foot of pitch in a 3” or greater diameter pipe.
9. GFCI Problems
Ground-fault circuit interrupters or GFCIs are power outlets that cut the power automatically if there is a change in the current or the moisture levels are too high. Strictly speaking, this is an electrical problem, but it’s very relevant to bathrooms, and kitchens where steam and moisture are prevalent. This is an important safety issue, the electrical outlets must be up to code and they can be tested with a GFCI tester tool.
Building codes exist to keep us and our property safe, and compliance is essential if you want to sell your home. Even the smallest code violation can lower the efficiency of your plumbing system and lead to extensive problems later. If you need to make minor repairs that don’t have an impact on the plumbing system, you can flex your DIY skills without a permit in many cases. But, if you want to remodel a kitchen or bathroom, it may be necessary to upgrade key areas that may not be up to the current codes. This is especially true if you live in an older home that has out of date fixtures. Contact your local professional plumber to ensure that your upgrades and repairs are compliant with the local plumbing codes.