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Products You Can Buy at Home Centers That Actually Violate Building Codes

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

Believe it or not, some of the items sold at a home centers may not meet local building code. There are national, state and local codes that differ depending on where you live. Home centers don’t limit what they sell verses local building codes, so it’s up to you to verify which products meet code and which ones may fail an inspection. Here’s a list of the most common products that may not pass with your local building inspector.


Saddle Valves

Saddle valve for ice makers and furnace humidifiers

They’re easy to install which is why people use them, however they’re notorious for leaking and plugging up. That’s why some local building code forbid them. If you install one of these valves during a remodel, you may asked to replace it during an inspection. To further complicate things, some saddle clamp manufactures say they can be used on plastic pipe, while areas that allow their use say they can only be used on copper pipes.

Why risk it. Install a sweat or compression tee with a quarter-turn stop valve instead.



Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers

You’re adding a new circuit for a basement family room and grab a standard circuit breaker off the shelf at the home center. Even though it’s compatible with your electrical panel, chances are it won't pass during an inspection. The National Electrical Code has changed and now requires arc fault protection in all living spaces. Since most local authorities have incorporated those changes into their building code as well, you’ll have to install an arc fault circuit breaker when adding additional circuits to your house.

It's also a good idea to purchase the same brand of breaker as your panel. While other brands may fit, the manufacture of your panel may not approve of their use which could also be flagged during an inspection. Tandem breakers may not be allowed in your panel ether and should be verified before installing one. When in doubt we recommend hiring a qualified electrical contractor to perform the work.



Flexible Dryer Vents

Flexible plastic or foil dryer vent

Most stores sell it even though it violates building code. Vinyl or foil venting material is a safety hazard because it can start on fire if overheated. The proper material to use is rigid or semi-rigid piping. It's also very important for the dryer to vent to the exterior of the home especially if it's a gas dryer!



S-Traps

Sinks in older homes are usually plumbed with an S-trap. Code has changed over the years and now require the use of P-traps. It was found that S-traps can siphon water out of the trap and allow sewer gas to enter the house. A P-trap should be used when replacing an older S trap to meet new code requirements. To make it confusing, stores still sell S-traps even though they are no longer allowed.



Standard Outlets

Standard electrical outlets

Home centers still sell standard outlets, but they don’t meet current building code. Tamper-resistant outlets with a “TR” stamp on the face are now the standard. TR outlets have spring-loaded shutters that don’t open unless both plug prongs are inserted at the same time. This lockout feature prevents kids from sticking pointed objects into the outlet. TR outlets should be used anytime you add or replace an outlet.

Exterior outlets located in "wet locations" also need the "WR" stamp on the face. This stands for Weather Resistance and is designed to perform in damp locations.

Don't forget GFCI protection when needed!



Standard Hose Bibs

Hose bib without backflow preventer

Todays exterior hose bibs requires a backflow preventer (also called a vacuum breaker) to meet current building code. If you’re replacing an old hose bib, we recommend buying a unit with a built-in vacuum breaker. The vacuum breaker is designed to prevent dirty water from being cross contaminated with the water inside your home.



Weather Resistant Covers

Weather Resistant covers for outdoor outlets

Building code now requires "In-Use" covers that prevent water from reaching the outlet while a cord is plugged in, on all exterior outlets located in a "Wet" location. This means if the outlet is not over a covered area such as a porch it requires an In-Use cover. Older style snap covers are still sold in stores so make sure you purchase the correct cover for your outlet.

Also, the outlet itself must have GFCI protection and be weather resistant with a “WR” stamp on the face. 

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