To permit or not to permit? That is the question.

By expertplumbing | Featured

Sep 07

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Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of building code fortune or to take arms against a sea of code requirements and by opposing end them…

When I put the addition on my home, 9 out of the ten inspections went very well.  The inspectors were thorough and reasonable.  After all, they knew I was my own builder and was not about to under build my own home.

But the 10th inspector, the structural code guy, was an SOB.  He spent 2 hours scoping every inch of my work.  He kicked, pulled, pushed and shook every inch of materials.  He was well known as the guy who refused to pass anyone on their first inspection.  At the end of it all he insisted we needed to add Tornado rods.

What the heck is a tornado rod?  Ready? It’s a piece of 3/8th threaded run from the bottom plate (2×4) of your foundation to the top ceiling plate.  This is supposed to stop a tornado.  Really?  This added 6 weeks of B.S. to our already 11 month’s discomfort.

Inspectors can demand anything in the book, no matter how outdated or ridicules.  They have you by the shorts and they know it.

Building codes are like traffic laws, if you look long enough, and hard enough, you’ll find one that applies.

Too many Inspectors are egomaniacs.  They become obsessed with their tiny notch of control and wield it like a witch hunter.  Others are just trying to do their jobs and keep you protected from rip offs and scams.

So do you pull a permit and risk being bullied into compliance?  Or do you not, and risk being endangered or robbed?

Yes, pull a permit, if you want to make sure everything is done correctly.  Lots of things can run beautifully for the first year and end up failing down the road simply because they were not inspected.  These things can cost you thousands of dollars.

Ex 1: A couple of times a month I get calls for sewer line “sheers”.  This is where the sewer is cut off at your foundation wall.  It’s caused most of the time, by lines installed without the required gravel base below the piping.  Gravel is about $25.00 dollars of material.  The weight of the earth above the sewer line slowly settles on the pipe until one day, “Snap”.  Without the gravel to displace the settling ground weight above the pipe this condition is inevitable.  A good inspector should catch this at installation.  

In this example a permit is a great idea, especially when your pipe is being repaired.  You don’t want to pay someone to put things back to their original, improper, installation.

Ex 2: You buy a water heater without pulling a permit.  Yes, you are required to pull a permit to install your new water heater.  Almost no contractors do this because; the guy installing your heater is not always a licensed plumber.  Yes, you are required to have a licensed plumber install your water heater.  But let’s say yours is installed and the installer used (illegal) flexible supplies to the water and gas.  Down the road your son is playing rugby in the basement and snaps one of the water lines, or worse, the gas line.  A flood and /or fire break out causing thousands in damage.  The fire marshal puts the illegal installation as cause.  And, guess what?  Now the insurance company doesn’t have to pay you.

Once an inspector comes into your home he or she can site things in your home that you’re not even working on or aware of and require you fix them.  This is never pleasant.  On the other hand, a contractor can list code things you need to address, and pay for, that are bald face lies.

Ex: One of my clients (neighbors) had us replace one of her 2 water heaters.  We quoted her a flat fee and recommended she do both at the same time.  We did only one at her insistence.  About 4 weeks later she called me and asked how much it would be to change the 2nd one?  I said puzzled, “The same as the first.”

“Are you sure?” she said. “Aren’t there any code issues?”

This gave me pause. “If I remember your home correctly, I’m sure.  Would you like me to stop by and confirm?” It’s important to mention that I am a licensed plumbing inspector for my state.

I arrived to find exactly what I remembered. I assured her of our price, installed and complete.  Then she told me what had happened.  She had gone to one of the big box stores.  They quoted her a price, installed, almost$150.00 dollars less than ours.

When the installer arrived he immediately started a list of code violations and items that were not included in the term “installed”.  This was basically anything within 5 feet of the water heater.  He refused to install the new heater or even give her his list of alleged code violations unless she signed for the $700.00 dollars in extras. She kicked him out.  But most people don’t.

My best advice is, as an inspector, use a contractor you trust beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Use someone local that you’ll run in to at the grocery store.  Use someone whose reputation means something to them.  And if you can’t find one, pull a permit.

The Expert Plumbing Guy.

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