Air gaps and California code?

artemis78January 21, 2010

I'm wondering if there is anyone out there who's had success with installing a dishwasher without an air gap in California with permits. We're looking to permit our kitchen, and the air gap is the big hangup...we're looking primarily at dishwashers that don't need them, but in California they're required by code nonetheless.

I've heard of some cities waiving this code requirement with adequate documentation of a built-in or alternative air gap (especially with Miele dishwashers) and am wondering if anyone has had any direct recent experiences doing this (or has tried and failed!), and if so, with which cities. (We're in Oakland.) If you succeeded, what kind of documentation did you need?


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I'm in SoCal and couldn't get around it. They are so ugly. Moved here from Ohio and had no idea what they were. Plumber told us to just set them on the counters (2 dishwashers)and see if we could get away with it. I was too chicken and it would have worked.....inspector didn't even glance at them!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 1:55AM
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What a lot of people do with DW's that don't require them is put one in, pass inspection, then change it to a soap dispenser.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 2:25AM
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Thanks---yep, I'd heard of the soap dispenser trick, and in a pinch that's what we'll do. But we have a wall-mount faucet, which means the air gap will be the only hole we drill in the counter at all, and the soap dispenser will look a little out of place---very irritating if we go with a d/w where it's not needed!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 1:40PM
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Pllog's idea is a great one!!!

Just remember that ANYWHERE you are - the code MAY be different -
so it's ALWAYS wise to use a LICENSED Plumber THAT KNOWS THE CODES
of the municipality that your home is in.

The air gap/soap dispenser option with a quarterback fake to the left ON THREE -
(sorry - couldn't resist turning that into a football play...HA!)

The "Air Gap/Soap Dispenser" idea is the way to go IMHO - just remember
to hook the Air Gap back up when (AFTER you sell your home) you have your
code inspection prior to closing!!!

I learned this the HARD WAY about 18 years ago when we moved from Wisconsin
to AZ.... Seams the guy who owned the house before me - NEVER took out
any permits to do some electrical work - and THE DAY BEFORE we were to close
on the house we were selling - I was scrambling trying to find an electrician

Lesson LEARNED by me the HARD WAY!!!!




    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 1:56PM
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Oh! Different story. Do you have a plumber or GC who's at all cozy with the inspectors? I don't mean in a bad way, but my GC, for instance, has a well deserved reputation for thoroughness, and he always has people on site to answer questions for the inspectors, which makes his inspections go smoothly. The inspectors therefore like him for not wasting their time and don't hassle him. It's harder if you're Jane Homeowner and the inspectors have no way of knowing the quality of your work.

What you can do, if you're willing to chance it, is heavily document the quality of a non-airgap installation, with a very clear, illustrated cover sheet. Present it to the inspector if he asks about the airgap. And be prepared to retrofit it if he requires it.

Or if you're putting in a disposer in that sink, you can use the hole for an airswitch.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 2:04PM
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We are in Southern California (Ventura) and installed a Miele dishwasher that doesn't require the air gap.

We were going to do the old switch-a-roo with the soap dispenser (even bought the air gap), but decided to give it a try without. We had the manual for the dishwasher all ready to show the inspector and he didn't even glance at it. Passed inspection...done deal.

It probably depends a lot on how easy or strict your inspector is.

As for the house sale thing...California is an "as-is" state per contract when selling. All repairs to be performed by a seller are negotiated, but never required.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 2:07PM
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I called my permit office inspector to find out (I'm in Oakland Piedmont). For us, the only dishwashers that didn't require an air gap are Mieles, which is what we had purchased anyway. We passed inspection fine without the air gap.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 2:19PM
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Thanks all! Yes, we do plan to use a licensed plumber and I'm very familiar with our local and state codes---that's the frustration, actually. :) Unless it's been explicitly modified by a local jurisdiction (which it hasn't been, in our case), CA code requires a countertop air gap regardless of whether the dishwasher installed requires one. (The thinking is that someone might later replace the d/w with one that does need one, I think, and so you must install it.) I'm actually not sure if you can install the airgap out the outside wall provided it's at the same height---the code just specifies "above sink flood level"---so I'll explore that too, but I think in our case that would cause as much trouble if not more, since our house is stuccoed...ugh!

Not too concerned about resale since the majority of kitchens around here aren't done with permits anyway, so we'll be ahead of the game by just having pulled them to start with!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 2:31PM
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Thanks Skoo---that's good to hear!! Was that with Oakland or Piedmont inspectors?

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 2:43PM
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Fori is not pleased

Pfft. Fremont wouldn't even consider the possibility of going without an air gap.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 4:14PM
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Piedmont - Chester Nakahara is the inspector for all Piedmont permits. FWIW, My parents in San Jose were required to put in the air gap for their Bosch DW.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 4:39PM
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Thanks---if only we lived a few blocks north! :) Promising nonetheless, though, since I know Piedmont is a stickler about a lot of code issues, so if the Mieles get their blessing, that might count for something with Oakland inspectors too. (I think LA also waives air gap requirements for Miele dishwashers.)

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 4:56PM
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Rather than replacing the air gap with a soap dispenser, I had a brilliant idea! How about installing an soap dispenser that was designed to also work as an air gap.

Unfortunately for me someone else also thought of this way back in 2002, and patented it.

However that means you don't have to wait for me to design, manufacture and distribute one, just google "combo air gap soap dispenser" and you can find many.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 5:33PM
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Our town (San Carlos) required an air gap. I explained to the lead official that Miele and Bosch have built in air gaps and also found out that another local community, specifically Burlingame, was not requiring air gaps for these machines. He relented, sent me an email exempting me from this requirement if I had one of those two machines, and then he updated the San Carlos code to be consistent with my exemption. So, I'd work with your officials.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 5:57PM
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Okay, this thread is ancient, but I wanted to post an update nonetheless---we did ultimately pass inspection without an air gap with a Miele Inspira. I had the documentation (manual from Miele website noting that dishwasher has a built-in air gap) all ready to go, but in the end the inspector didn't question it. We asked three different inspectors who were out for the rough inspections, and the answer from all was to defer to manufacturer's instructions (which don't include an air gap) where they are in conflict with code. (My favorite was the inspector who just raised an eyebrow and said "well, let me tell you---appliances advance a whole lot faster than California code!")

I can't believe that it was really 18 months ago that I was asking about this, but that's another story... ;)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 2:40AM
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