Code Tidbit - September, 2011                                                By: Douglas A. Page, PE, MPA, LEED AP, CEM, CPD

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At the new officers' request, I agreed to share a few more thoughts with you this ASPE fiscal year. For the Sept issue of the Code Tidbit, I thought I'd share the top two most common errors I see while doing 'field observations.' Warning: You may not like what you are about to read.
Item # 1: Flux
Last year I wrote about flux in this column - repeatedly. Namely:

P605.15.4 Soldered joints. "...A flux conforming to ASTM B 813 shall be applied..."
So how hard can this be? Manufacturers make and sell the stuff. This stuff is sitting at distributors. At every single project I inspected this summer, the plumbing contractor was using the wrong flux. Last year I shared how the oil based flux being used plugged terminal strainers and mixing valves.

Part of the problem rests with the manufacturers. The most common offender is Oatey. Their # 5 is, at best, misleading. The tub of flux has a big NSF-61 on the side of it, yet, it does not conform to the NYS Code or the international code (the IPC or the IMC). When I spoke with them, they indicated that that had flux available that did comply. Well, that's helpful. I asked them about educating the contracting community. Their response was that educating users was not their responsibility. In short, Oatey is selling product in NYS knowing it does not comply with the Code, and taking no ownership for this deficiency. I add that I did speak with other manufacturers such as Rector Seal and they too are selling non-compliant flux in tubs. The difference is only Oatey stamps a big "NSF-61" on their non-compliant flux giving the impression that it's the right stuff to use.
This past summer, I had contractors remove and clean all terminal strainers and aerators and reflush the system, then reinstall the strainers and aerators. Since this problem was on every project I performed a 'field observation' for, the message is clearly not getting out.
In 2012, the method to address the non-conformance will be to remove all piping where non-conforming flux was used.
I suspect that the 2012 construction season will be far more challenging than 2011. Removing piping systems where the wrong flux was used will cost tens of thousands of dollars. You heard (OK, read) it here first.

Item # 2: Accessible Dimensions for Water Closets
Where fixtures are provided for the disabled, Chapter 11 essentially requires compliance with standard ICC-ANSI A117.1 (Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities). Related to water closet compartments is:

1109.2.2 Water closet compartment.
Where water closet compartments are provided in a toilet room or bathing facility, at least one wheelchair-accessible compartment shall be provided. Where the combined total water closet compartments and urinals provided in a toilet room or bathing facility is six or more, at least one ambulatory-accessible water closet compartment shall be provided in addition to the wheelchair-accessible compartment. Wheelchair-accessible and ambulatory-accessible compartments shall comply with ICC A117.1.
We're all familiar with the water closet seat needing to be 17-19" above finished floor, but apparently less familiar with the requirement that the centerline of the water closet needs to be 16-18" from the face of the wall (or partition) with the grab bar. It used to be 18" exactly. That was obviously pretty darn hard to achieve. So, ICC-ANSI gave us a 2" range to hit. On every dormitory major bathroom renovation project I did "field observations" at this summer, the centerline dimension was wrong. In these cases, they either redid the piping or built out the wall to comply. I should add, I saw this condition at a hospital renovation also, so it is not limited to resident halls.
All of the projects I saw this summer with this condition, the design team showed the dimensions on the drawings. Sometimes on the P drawings, sometimes on the A drawings. The cost for rework is borne by the contractor. It has costs many thousands of dollars to fix this mistake. This cost is avoidable.

Just for fun, other common specification (compared to code driven) deficiencies were:
 Poorly installed insulation, non-continuous insulation through walls, floors and at pipe supports;
 Valves that do not conform to the specifications (isolation valves that were not full port, did not have extended stems, and were not bronze);
 Installation of materials that were not specified;
 Missing brazer certificates;
 Dirt legs on gas piping that had the bottom welded rather than provided with a removable cap;
 Terrazzo shower and mop sink bases not installed in sand or mud set per manufacturer's requirements;
 Improper balancing (in some cases no balancing) of domestic water systems;

These are just a few thoughts and observations. If you are a contractor, check your stock of flux - especially if the letters "OATEY" are on it. If you are a designer, construction manager, or code enforcement official; you should be looking for compliant flux when you are performing "field observations".
Doug
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Capital Region New York State Chapter
American Society of Plumbing Engineers