Convincing inspectors high-loop installation does not need airgap

lalitharFebruary 16, 2012

In CA, the code requires airgap. I am wondering if anyone has convinced inspectors that it is not necessary? Both of our dishwashers (Miele and FP) can be installed without airgap. My plumber is basically suggesting doing it and then swapping with soap dispenser later.. Can we try to convince the inspector instead - Any ideas?

Lalitha

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asolo

Assuming your "inspectors" are state employees, their first/last/only job is to assure compliance with existing regulations. Your and/or the mgfr's idea of "not necessary" will go nowhere with them.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 2:21PM
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gardyloo

Agree with asolo. IMO, trying to convince them of something out of compliance with code may trigger a deeper and more detailed look at the rest of the work.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 2:47PM
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breezygirl

I'm doing what your plumber suggested. I installed an air gap...for now. I have a shiny new Elkay soap dispenser on standby for swap out after inspection.

My whole approach as GC on our whole house reno has been to comply with code and be nice to the inspectors, but on the squishy high-loop vs air gap issue I figure what I do after the inspector signs off is none of his business. I don't think it's worth trying to convince them because 1.) you won't win; 2.) it sets a bad tone for the rest of the construction review; and 3.) you have a perfectly good work-around.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 2:37AM
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lalithar

Thank you breezy, gardyloo, a solo for the reality check
I actually called and chatted with the inspector for my city and he said.. Look I know it is silly but this actually the law in CA.

So the soap dispenser after the inspection it is..

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 2:48AM
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kaseki

Does the CA code specifically say air gap no matter what, or does it say to conform to the International Plumbing Code? In the latter case, you can alternatively put in an open standpipe and trap connection to the drain pipe (IPC par. 802.1.6). The distance from trap weir to the top of the standpipe has to be 18 inches (or more). The dishwasher then drains into the standpipe.

This configuration will put the hose high under the counter, and it may prove convenient to buy a washing machine drain hose just to get the formed curve support for the hose. (The one I bought fits the Miele hose perfectly.) If the standpipe has a bit of tilt, or the hose aims at a side, the water hugs the pipe wall and the drain process is completely quiet. (At least it is for my Miele Optima, my only test case, but this concept was raised in this forum a few years ago.)

kas

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 11:15AM
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attofarad

I found the link on the SJ Building web site, but probably only applies to island sinks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Island sink vent

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 12:50PM
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zartemis

There have been a few (anecdotal) instances of CA inspectors in some areas approving install without an airgap IF the dishwasher has a check valve/backflow preventer. A plumbing store in the Bay Area told me that many of their customers with newer Miele dishwashers have been able to get approved without an air gap.

Miele models often include such a valve, but I don't believe that any FP dishdrawers do. Just because the manual lists an option for a high loop does not indicate a valve exists (all dishwashers can be installed with a high loop). In fact, it indicates otherwise: if the dishwasher has such a valve it doesn't need a high loop, either (and so the Miele instruction sheets don't show one).

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 1:30PM
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jsceva

Not to hijack the thread, but does anybody know if a Johnson Tee is considered to meet code in CA? Specifically in SF area, but any feedback appreciated. Seems like they *should* satisfy the code requirement (CPC 807.4), but we all know that the difference between that and actually passing inspection can be huge...

I'd really love to avoid drilling any holes at all in my new counters...we are using a wall-mount faucet just for that reason. If I have to have a countertop air gap, I'll survive, but am trying to find another option...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 4:51PM
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davidro1

To me, a Johnson Tee is an air gap that is open to the outdoor air. A countertop air gap is indoors.

lalitha, every dishwasher can be installed without any airgap. It's never because a DW needs it. It's never a "feature" of any manufacturer. There are no DW that require it. It's not a DW thing. It's a drain plumbing thing.

A standpipe is an air gap.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:03PM
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asolo

Entirely misses the point. You're talking about state regulations and state inspectors charged with enforcing the regulations. That's it. There isn't anything else.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 9:03PM
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kaseki

The IPC (or rather the guide book I have for it) also shows an outside air vent option. While this wouldn't have been helpful in my case, it might for keeping a hole out of the countertop for sinks in front of outside windows.

Again, what does the code specifically say? If the code is more permissive than the historical behavior of the inspectors, then the alternative should be discussed with them to avoid having to buy a diamond hole saw.

kas

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 12:04PM
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jsceva

California Plumbing Code 807.4: No domestic dishwashing machine shall be directly connected to a drainage system or food waste disposer without the use of an approved dishwasher airgap fitting on the discharge side of the dishwashing machine. Listed airgaps shall be installed with the flood-level (FL) marking at or above the flood level of the sink or drainboard, whichever is higher.

I think this is exactly the same as the model UPC...which is different, and more restrictive, than the IPC.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 3:23AM
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kaseki

Thanks. I see that they pretty much regulated beyond what they had to to avoid any siphoning into the dishwasher. The image I have from their wording is that the sink is at flood stage (flowing over the counter) but nothing is leaking back into the dishwasher, unless the dishwasher door is open, in which case it may be filling up anyway depending on counter flatness.

kas

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 7:56PM
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davidro1

f.y.i. study standpipes. They were the world's first air gaps, and still are. When a hose is made to drop its drain water into an large openmouthed pipe, and when the hose's end is installed higher than the top of the standpipe mouth, you have a gap, and you have made the most secure anti-siphon setup. (A clothes washing machine's standpipe is not this because of the J shape hooked hose end.)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 12:14PM
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kaseki

David:

If a 1.5-inch standpipe in a properly vented and spaced DWV system fills up to its top while the dishwasher is emptying through its half-inch hose, whether there is a vertical gap there or not one has a lot bigger problem than potential waste water back-flow into the dishwasher.

Figure 802.4 in the 2006 IPC defines required standpipe usage. It shows a loop in the feeding hose with the end below the top of the standpipe.

Otherwise, I agree that a gap above the standpipe is even safer, reverse contamination-wise, even if non-conforming to the IPC's installation direction.

kas

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 11:00AM
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antss

"I agree that a gap above the standpipe is even safer, reverse contamination-wise, even if non-conforming to the IPC's installation direction."

I also agree, but a one way check valve is even better than both of those options. All miele dw's come with them.

Lalitha - sched. a meeting with your inspector or the supervisor and take the miele docs describing the check valve and that usually suffices.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 2:09PM
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asolo

"....check valve/backflow preventer...."

Are such devices available for in-line retrofit....that is, can I place one in my existing DW's drain hose? Are they, in fact, viable alternatives to code-required air-gap?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 3:14PM
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antss

They are available for the main sewer line exiting the home but I've never seen one for a branch line or a DW drain hose.

Miele's is inside the unit's sump.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 4:19PM
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asolo

I think that's a great feature. Embarrassed to admit this is the first I've known of it. Suspect may not be a point-of-sale item Joe and Sally average would pay much attention to.....but I think it's terrific idea.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 4:47PM
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antss

Miele has had it for decades on every single model shipped.

It's can't add that much to the cost , but it's not free either.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 5:18PM
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kaseki

One issue that an inspector might raise is: What protects the next owner when he replaces the dishwasher with one that is without a check valve?

Another question might be: What if the check valve fails? In a functioning plumbing system, this might not be obvious.

As a potential new owner, I'd be happy with an attached notice under the sink defining requirements, but that might not satisfy the inspector either.

kas

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 6:32PM
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sean_m

Would the inspector go for installing said air gap high inside the cabinet? Then it's not a visual issue

Or...do you have the option of using a different inspector?

I've done plenty of temporary installs to meet code compliance, then restore it back to the way I want it, which usually exceeds the goal of the rule in the code I'm having a problem with. Go borrow a cheap sink and temp-mount it all. Rip it out once you get the C/O or permit signed off.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 6:57PM
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marcolo

One issue that an inspector might raise is: What protects the next owner when he replaces the dishwasher with one that is without a check valve?

What are you asking? The same thing that protects an owner who decides to remove an air gap and put in a soap dispenser instead.

Let Darwin do his thing.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 7:39PM
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antss

"One issue that an inspector might raise is: What protects the next owner when he replaces the dishwasher with one that is without a check valve? "

Nothing, but then again nothing prevents you or a subsequent owner from removing the air gap contraption either ! If the miele is installed ideally , then it'll be at 60cm and there will be little choice anyway and odds will favor a miele anyway. If it's a full blown remodel, mr. inspector will be back and we can have this back and forth again.

"Or...do you have the option of using a different inspector? "

Usually , no.

"Would the inspector go for installing said air gap high inside the cabinet? Then it's not a visual issue "

No.

"Another question might be: What if the check valve fails? In a functioning plumbing system, this might not be obvious. "

Then the miele will invariably throw a fault code and a servicer will come out and replace it. Very very unlikely though.

What if the air gap fails or breaks and you get water all over your cabinets on floors when the DW drains ???

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 12:26AM
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davidro1

holy cow.
installing an air gap high somewhere not in the countertop IS an option.

remember that an air gap can release drain water if there is a problem in the drain.
remember that an inspector knows this too, and will ask where the drain water is going to spill.
for this reason you ought not to plan for an air gap to be hidden inside a wall.
(I know someone who put an AAV inside a wall... an analagous situation)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 8:10AM
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kaseki

Where's a 'Holy Mackerel' when you need one? (Rhetorical question]

The questions I posed were intended to illustrate why convincing an inspector to accept a Miele check valve would be difficult; they were not intended to inform me of the self-evident consequences of their propositions.

kas

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 11:21AM
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antss

david - you obviously don't live or do work in CA.

Placing the airgap that inspectors want to see is not possible in the wall or under the countertop.

"I know someone who put an AAV inside a wall... an analagous situation'

I know people that still lick their finger and stick them in light sockets to see if there's power. They and your friend that places a studorvent in a wall are stupid!

Even if it were place in a rated enclosure with the proper grille to allow free air to the vent - you'd still have an unsightly grille on your wall to look at. One could also place it "in the wall" in say a washer dryer box next to the supplies, this would still be visible and we're not talking about washers here anyway.

Also, an AAV is not an airgap for a dishwasher, it will do nothing to prevent greywater from entering the DW.

david - you're doing nothing here but confusing the neophytes and dangling false hopes. Better keep quiet till you get some more experience under your belt.

Here is a link that might be useful: airgap inspectors want to see

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 11:22AM
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asolo

Seems to me the task at hand is passing the inspection via complying with the code the inspector is duty-bound to enforce. The code may or may not provide for alternatives. Call them and ask them. When you know the acceptable alternatives, comply. That's it.

This is getting a little silly.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 12:01PM
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jsceva

At first glance, the code seems pretty clear: you have to have to install an "approved dishwasher airgap fitting," it has to be on the discharge side of the dishwasher, and it has to have its flood-level (FL) marking "at or above the flood level of the sink or drainboard, whichever is higher." This directly rules out any installation that is under the counter. By the same token, if you could figure out a way to do it (which I am not sure you easily could) and wanted to, there is no reason you couldn't install the airgap higher up and not directly on the counter.

The real ambiguity lies in what exactly is meant by the phrase "dishwasher airgap fitting." The use of the word "fitting" implies something more specific than just an "airgap" in the technical sense...."airgap" is defined but "airgap fitting" is not. Its clear that the countertop airgaps we are used to seeing are such fittings, but the open question is whether there is any other kind of fitting out there that would qualify.

This is the source of my question regarding the Johnson Tee...it is clearly a fitting, it is clearly an airgap, but it isn't the kind people are used to seeing. Instead, it is installed in-wall and opens onto the exterior. See the attached link for a pic and description....apparently, they were invented by an inspector in Washington State, and that is where they are most common. It is my understanding that their state code has language identical to the California code, and the Johnson Tee does have a UPC stamp on it...all of which argues that it should work in California, and avoid the need for a countertop airgap, but I am still trying to get a straight answer from someone locally. If and when I do, I will update everybody,

Here is a link that might be useful: Johnson Tee information and pic

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 6:09PM
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dixiedarlin1

a bit late to the party, but it isn't just Miele that has a drain check valve or non-return vale in the drain system. It's just that Miele talks about it as if it is an exclusive feature. NOT! Many machines have always had them and now with the energy & water saving empahsis they standard equipment on all.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 7:50PM
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Seattleinspector

Since, jsceva, above linked to a post on my blog about air gap devices I thought I would respond. You will get lots of answers to this question depending on who you ask and what jurisdiction you are asking it in. The letter of the codes would indicate that they are necessary regardless of what the DW manufacturer says about it. If you think about it---the intent of the air gap is to be above the flood rim of the sink---how can that happen if it is integral with the washer below the flood rim of the sink? It can't. This is why, in my area, some form of "air gap device" is required regardless of manufacturer statements. Bottom line is that they are a very good idea---just install one.

Regarding the J-Tee, the only possible issue with them is that a few of the newer washers require a minimum 5/8" drain line which would mean that "technically" the 1/2 J-tee would not be suitable.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:28PM
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GWlolo

I did order Johnson Tee from Aurora plumbing. None of the specialty plumbing stores in california near san francisco had even heard of it. I showed it to our city's inspector and he was very interested and researched it. Came back and said that this was not going to be OK per california code for our city. So we are back to traditional air gap with Miele. I haven't decided if I will switch to a air switch after the inspection. If you are in CA, your mileage may vary with your inspector. If anyone in bay area needs a Johnson- Tee, I am happy to send you mine. Just email me from the gardenweb link.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 3:36PM
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