Code Compliance Deviations: How to Avoid these Costly Oversights

Oftentimes violations of building code lead to costly failures.  Through years of claims investigations, I’ve noted some more “common” code violations that are valuable to point out and more importantly, ways to avoid these expensive oversights. 

First and foremost, remember that building codes including:  International Building Code (IBC), International Plumbing Code (IPC), and International Residential Code (IRC), are intended to protect public safety. Constructing pursuant with code will mitigate potential loss of personal property in addition to potential injury.

Preface Code: “This code is founded on principles intended to establish provisions consistent with the scope of a (building, plumbing, residential) code that adequately protects public health, safety, and welfare; provisions that do not unnecessarily increase construction costs; provisions that do not restrict the use of new materials, products or methods of construction; and provisions that do not give preferential treatment to particular types or classes of materials, products or methods of construction.”

  1. Building Code will often reference “per the manufacturer’s instructions,” yet manufacturer’s instructions are recurrently neglected.  Neglecting manufacturer’s instructions can lead to costly repairs and is oftentimes the same as violating a code!!
Fire Sprinkler

Fire Sprinkler (Photo credit: alachia)

Case Study of Specific Code Violations – Example 1:

A fire sprinkler pipe was penetrated by a nail.  The punctured fire sprinkler line caused extensive water damage within a structure.

A single nail puncture lead to several IBC violations including:

i. IBC: “Holes bored in rafters or ceiling joists shall not be within 2 inches (51 mm) of the top and bottom.”

ii. IPC: “In concealed locations where piping, other than cast-iron or galvanized steel, is installed through holes or notches in studs, joists, rafters or similar members less than 1-1/2 inches (38 mm) from the nearest edge of the member, the pipe shall be protected by steel shield plates.”

Take away: Had either of the two code clauses above been heeded, there wouldn’t have been an issue.  However; the bore-hole was within 2-inches of the top of a joist and there were no shield plates installed.

Case Study of Specific Code Violations – Example 2:

A pressure relief valve releasing on a hot water heater following a repair by a contractor.  While this case indicates a likely error in the wiring of the hot water heater to the boiler, there really should have not been any major water damages issues.  The problem occurred due to the fact that the IRC code had been violated:

IRC Violations:

i. “Requirements for discharge pipe.  The discharge piping serving a pressure-relief valve, temperature-relief valve or combination valve shall: serve as a single relief device and shall not connect to piping serving any other relief device or equipment.

ii. “Discharge to the floor, to an indirect waste receptor or to the outdoors.  Where discharging to the outdoors in areas subject to freezing, discharging piping shall be first piped to an indirect waste receptor through an air gap located in a conditioned area.”

iii. Discharge in a manner that does not cause personal injury or structural damage.”

iv. “Not terminate more than 6 inches (152 mm) above the floor or waste receptor.” 

Take away: Had a discharge pipe been installed of off the pressure relief valve as required, the released water would have been directed to a nearby floor-drain rather than spraying uncontrollably at the ceiling of the home.  

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