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When Old Plumbing Doesn't Meet Code

Do you have to fix it now?

Choosing a New Furnace
Photo by Keller & Keller

On a recent visit to our 52-year-old home, a house inspector said that our kitchen sink doesn't meet current codes for venting. But when we checked with a city building inspector, he said that there's no problem leaving the vent as it is. The sink has drained just fine in the 15 years we've lived here, and I don't want to punch through our brick walls just to add a vent I might not need. Who is giving us the right information?
— Rich, St. Louis, Mo.


Richard Trethewey replies: Everyone, probably. Your plumbing system may not meet current codes — and for all I know neither does your electrical system, your framing, or your foundation — but that doesn't mean you have to change it. When you add to, alter, or renovate, however, the work does have to conform to current codes.
Knowing the current codes and finding things that don't meet them is exactly what a home inspector is supposed to do. But the building or plumbing inspector for the city is the final authority on what has to be fixed or upgraded. If he says it's okay as is, it's okay.
Now if you're trying to sell the house and the sink's vent comes up in an inspection report, you may face a buyer (or the buyer's lender) who demands that the venting be brought up to code as a condition of purchase. At that point, it's a matter for negotiation; you'll have to decide whether it's worth making the fix.


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