Revisiting Chapter 5 of the Uniform Plumbing Code
UPC Tidbits knowing and applying the details is the difference between a job well done and a mistake
In February of 2017 I shared what happened to Chapter 5 of the Uniform Plumbing Code when IAPMO and NFPA agreed to work together to broaden the scope of that chapter. (See the article here. -- Ed.] In any collaboration, I suppose there is give and take or negotiations. We tend to look back and second guess decisions made and imagine what we would have done had we been given the opportunity. I’m going to do a little bit of that right now.
One of the requirements for the installation of water heaters was accessibility for inspection repair and replacement, “The appliance space shall be provided with an opening or doorway of sufficient size to remove the water heater. In no case shall such opening or doorway be less than twenty-four (24) inches in width” (2000 UPC Section 511.0).
Another way to say that is, the opening or doorway was required to be a minimum of 24 inches wide, - or larger if 24 inches was insufficient to be able to service or replace the appliance.
I’ve seen and done installations where even after confirming the required dimension, the general contractor still ordered doors that were 18 or 20 inches wide, and you had to remove the door stops and flatten the sides of water heater jacket to get a water heater into it’s space. Not only is that incorrect, but what happens to the next person who has to replace it with a water heater that has even more insulation?
The current section (2015 UPC Section 507.26) is titled Accessibility for Service. The second sentence reads, “Sufficient clearance shall be maintained to permit cleaning of heating surfaces; the replacement of filters, blowers, motors, burners, controls, and vent connections; the lubrication of moving parts where necessary; the adjustment and cleaning of burners and pilots; and the proper functioning of explosion vents, where provided.”
I don’t believe I’m the only one who sees a substantial difference between the two sections as far as removal and replacement is concerned. The text from the 2000 UPC clearly states what the requirements are while the text from the 2015 UPC addresses cleaning, replacement of components, lubrication and adjustment. It leaves out anything specific about being able to remove and replace a water heater or other appliance.
If I could go back in time I would do my best to make sure that language was included in section 507.26. If you agree with me on this or there is something else you believe needs amending or a more drastic overhaul, now is the perfect time to get involved.
IAPMO has a website to accept your proposals which would be included in the 2021 UPC or UMC. Don’t delay; the last day to submit changes is March 16.
If you need assistance in preparing your code change, email me, email@example.com, and I will connect you to someone who will help.
Did you know that 50/50 solder is still permitted in plumbing systems? Before exploring that, I’m going to share something weird about 50/50 wire solder. It is made of 50 percent lead and 50 percent tin. To use in a plumbing system it is melted and used as a filler or bonding agent. okay you probably already knew that.
Lead has a melting temperature of 622°F. Tin has a melting temperature of 450°F. Is it logical that 50/50 solder should have a melting temperature of the average of the two materials (622°F + 450°F /2=536°F)? What temperature does 50/50 solder begin to melt?
Okay here’s the weird thing about 50/50 wire solder. Because it is an alloy (made from two elements) you can’t just average the melting temperature of both. We can know that because 50/50 solder has a melting temperature range of 361°F to 414°F, at least 120°F less than it would be if the previous calculation actually worked. There are scientists or chemists out there that could tell us why. To it’s just weird science.
Thirty years ago, The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1986 began the demise of 50/50 solder because of the potential harmful effects of lead. However, that ban was limited to systems that distribute potable water. 50/50 solder can be used in any location in a plumbing systems except potable water distribution.
The melting temperature range of typical lead free (not to exceed .20% lead) solders is 460°F to 630°F. The higher range led to more leaks in joints when it was first introduced. You probably realize there is almost always a learning curve with new products.
Maybe you’ve also heard of 95/5 solder. It would commonly be used where temperatures are a little higher than normal. Perhaps what you didn’t know is that it is 95 percent tin and 5 percent antimony and considered lead-free. Antimony is briefly noted as a silvery white metallic chemical element, which has been known of since ancient times. The melting temperature if 95/5 solder is a relatively consistent 460°F.
Did you know, with a couple of exceptions, there are minimum dimensions for a shower? The first sentence of the 2015 UPC, Section 408.6 states: Shower compartments, regardless of shape, shall have a minimum finished interior of 1024 square inches and shall also be capable of encompassing a 30 inch circle. Here is where the crunch comes. It says the minimum FINISHED dimension. I bring this up because I’ve seen many installations of fiberglass, acrylic and tile where the rough dimension is 30 or 32 inches and when finished the dimension can be as small as 28 inches. A 28 inch square area will have a finished dimension of 728 square inches.
If you see something like that on a set of plans do the end user, contractor, and yourself a big favor. Help them understand that in finishing an opening for a shower they should expect to lose as much as 2 inches in each direction. I don’t know about you but if I tried to stand in a stall that small my skin I would probably touch the wall on all sides. No thanks!