The Lazy-T-Barred Ranch

WE RECENTLY returned from a dude ranch in Colorado (www.wrranch.com) that backed right up to Rocky Mountain National Park. The Colorado River begins its journey a few miles away and flows through the ranch. We had an opportunity to visit with fellow CONTRACTOR columnist Mark Eatherton and his bride mid-week for a guided tour of Colorado's breathtaking beauty. Being on a dude ranch and horseback riding

WE RECENTLY returned from a dude ranch in Colorado (www.wrranch.com) that backed right up to Rocky Mountain National Park. The Colorado River begins its journey a few miles away and flows through the ranch.

We had an opportunity to visit with fellow CONTRACTOR columnist Mark Eatherton and his bride mid-week for a guided tour of Colorado's breathtaking beauty. Being on a dude ranch and horseback riding gave rise to thoughts of branding cattle. Coming up with a branding logo was no problem because I've long wanted to brand the rear ends of those who install sanitary T's on their backsides in drainage systems!

A week prior to our leaving for Colorado, I was revisiting a boiler bid with customers for whom we've done other work in the past, and we were going over the two-year-old bid to replace their aging beast in the basement. The boiler was really a bandit robbing them of heating dollars sent up the flue.

As we went over the many benefits an upgrade would bring them in terms of both comfort and economy, I spied new PVC plumbing in the basement ceiling joist area. UPC code stickers alerted me to the possibility that the homeowners might have done their own plumbing work, so I tread lightly at first while inquiring about the manner in which the lines were installed.

It caused the kitchen sink to gasp for air in a slup-slup manner.

As my eyes wandered along the length of the kitchen drain line, there were several sanitary T's laid flat on their backs. Farther along, new drainage serving a bathroom appeared and, here again, more lazy-T's appeared. The tub's P-trap was rendered un-vented by the lavatory wet-vent because it turned down with a 45-degree ell, making it a 3/4-in. S-trap and, to add insult to injury, it terminated in yet another lazy-T!

"Does the tub drain properly?" I asked.

"No!" she replied, "And they've been three times with no results or improvement in its performance."

Who "they" were turned out to be remodeling contractor who, as my client put it, had its own "plumber."

Was there a plumbing inspection?" asked.

She didn't know the answer, but the new Pennsylvania statewide codes would have required a permit for the kitchen work due to the addition of an island sink. An un-vented island sink served by a P-trap as it turned out! She told me that whenever the island was draining, it caused the kitchen to gasp for air in a slup-slup manner — a sure sign there's either no vent clogged vent serving that fixture.

One thing I knew for certain: The inhouse "plumber" was no plumber, not any stretch of the imagination if work was an example of his skills.

Given the fact that our newly adopted statewide code is chock-ablock full of loopholes and that virtually none of our local plumbing inspectors fully comprehend, much less know how to interpret, its intent, I called up the township's plumbing inspector to ask if he would require a permit and inspection for the boiler installation. Technically, none was required because the new boiler's Btuh-rating would be the same as the old one's (based upon a Manual-J calculation).

The code states that no permit or inspection is required unless you're changing the fuel type or Btuh sizing. In other words, do a proper heat-loss calculation and find the old beast is oversized for any number of reasons (such as beefed up insulation or new windows), and you'll be required to provide Manual-J calculations, obtain a permit and acquire an inspection. Or, simply toss in the same-old, same-old and avoid the permit/ inspection process. Bass-ackwards thinking, but that's the new code!

We weren't required to obtain a permit or inspection, so I asked the PI if he permits lazy-T installations.

"Absolutely not," he replied and wanted to know why I was asking.

So, we discussed the situation at some length and commiserated with each other regarding this new " Uninformed" (Uniform) Construction Code Pennsylvania has adopted and he asked me for the property address.

Now there's another dilemma. I didn't want to compromise our relationship with the homeowners and she specifically asked me not to disclose their address to the PI. The remodeling contractor, on the other hand, shouldn't be permitted to continue foisting substandard plumbing onto unsuspecting consumers. Talk about being caught on the horns of a dilemma!

But, just as I thought the PI was going to squeeze me for the information, he stopped mid-sentence and began thinking about which remodeling contractors had long established a track record of dodging permits. His first guess hit the bull's-eye!

Lazy-T's installed on their backs promote lousy drainage characteristics as the cascading effluent will be diverted both upstream as well as downstream. Over time, debris builds up on the upstream side, causing poor or blocked drainage. In addition, in plastic drainage systems, a lazy-T is noisy.

If you need me, I'll be in the lower 40 — with a red-hot Lazy-T-Barred branding iron, chasing slackers and substandard remodeling contractors!

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