Maintenance and Operations, Plumbing, Training

Plumbing Code Violations to Avoid in Your Facility

If you own a hospital, factory, or another large-scale commercial or industrial entity, you likely have a lot on your plate. In addition to making sure that all operations are running smoothly, you also need to worry about the construction and maintenance of your building.

While construction and maintenance might not seem like a huge deal, it could make or break your operations. This is especially true when it comes to construction, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing codes and making sure there aren’t any violations. Plumbing violations, in particular, can result in fines, are expensive to repair, and will have building inspectors on the lookout for issues in the future.

If you want to avoid this mess and ensure your facility is free of plumbing code violations, you’ve come to the right place. This article will examine some of the most common plumbing code violations, the potential consequences, and how to fix the problem. Let’s get started!

Issues with Bathroom Vents

Bathroom vents are one of the most common sore spots in terms of commercial plumbing code violations. Bathroom vents are responsible for taking air inside your bathroom and removing it from the building any time the fan is turned on. This is done to ensure proper circulation, to help with foul odors, and to prevent moisture damage from condensation.

While bathroom vent codes will vary depending on your facility and location, here are a few general rules to watch out for:

  • The air from your bathroom vent has to travel outside, and it can’t be recirculated to another part of the building.
  • The bathroom vent can tie into other bathroom vents that are traveling outside, but not with dryer vents or other types of vents.
  • Air from bathroom vents cannot be circulated to attics, crawlspaces, or an adjoining building.
  • The bathroom vent has to be large enough to accommodate the size of the bathroom or stall that it’s serving according to building code requirements.

In addition to these rules, there may be others depending on your location. Failing to comply with your local building code will result in a failed inspection, which could set your project back days, weeks, or even months. It could also result in a fine if you’re not a first-time offender.

Inadequate Slope on Drain Pipes

Another popular issue that has even worse ramifications than bathroom vent problems is if your drain pipes aren’t sloped enough. Pipes that aren’t sloped enough are prone to clogging and backflow, especially with sewer pipes that have lots of waste, solids, and water traveling through them.

Once again, the exact rules regarding slope will be different from area to area, and they will also differ depending on the purpose and size of the pipe. In general, however, sewer and drain pipes should have at least ¼” to ⅛” of slope for every horizontal foot it travels. Usually, the smaller the circumference of the pipe, the more slope it should have. For example, a pipe that’s 2″ round or less needs ¼” of slope per foot, whereas a 3″ pipe or larger only needs ⅛” per foot.

Cramming the Toilet

In a world where people value their space and privacy, it’s a wonder that plumbers sometimes don’t provide enough space for toilets, a place where space is extra important. However, it still happens from time to time when a toilet gets installed too close to the side or rear walls. This is especially true with commercial properties, where toilets need to be wheelchair and handicap friendly.

In general, there has to be between 16″ and 18″ from the center of the toilet to any wall. There must also be at least one bathroom stall with enough space for a wheelchair to enter and turn around completely. In most cases, this means at least 60″ of clearance from the toilet to the front of the stall.

Incorrectly Sized Drain or Vent Pipes

In addition to some drain and vent pipes not having enough slope, it’s also possible to install the wrong pipes entirely. There are different pipe sizes for different uses, and using the wrong pipe for the wrong thing will result in a code violation.

Toilet and sewer pipes, for example, have to be at least 3″ round, whereas most vent pipes need to be at least 2″. There may also be different size requirements based on the type of pipes you’re using. Cast iron pipes, for example, often need to be bigger than a PVC or ABS pipe used for the same reasons.

Cleanout Issues

Plumbing cleanouts are essential for maintenance and repair purposes. Therefore, if you don’t have them in the right place or forget to install them, it can result in a plumbing code violation. Cleanouts are necessary so that locating and repairing clogs is easier. Without adequate or inaccessible cleanouts, a simple clog might require cutting into the plumbing system and an extensive repair, whereas a cleanout allows you to simply remove a cap.

Cleanouts are required on all horizontally installed plumbing drain pipes, regardless of their purpose. Additionally, you need a cleanout every 100 feet starting at the highest point on the drainage system.

Using Illegal Pipes or Materials

Plumbing has come a long way from years past, thanks to updates in the pipes and materials that get used in commercial plumbing systems. For instance, cast iron and galvanized steel used to be the gold standard for drainage and water systems, but they’re now outdated and hardly ever used.

Additionally, some plumbing materials are illegal to use today. These materials will vary from state to state but usually include lead-based pipes, poly B, low-grade PEX, and CPVC piping. Certain types of pipes can’t be used for certain purposes. Thin-walled CPVC and ABS, for example, can’t be used for venting water heaters, while PEX isn’t allowed for certain levels of water pressure.

The Importance of Code Compliance

In addition to these potential code violations, there are many others that you need to be aware of. Having even a single violation could result in massive delays to your commercial project, along with fines and a red flag for any inspections in the future. Therefore, while your plumber should be aware of the local plumbing code, they may try to cut corners or get one over on you, which means you should know the codes as well.

Mark Ligon is the marketing manager at Commercial Industrial Supply, a supplier of commercial and industrial piping, fittings, valves, filtration products, and accessories. Ligon enjoys educating businesses on the specific parts of piping systems so managers can make informed decisions. 

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