When home inspectors need referees

There is an old joke about soccer referees.  “The referee is always right and even when he is wrong he is still right.”As a Seattle Home Inspector I run into this sometimes when I call something out to be repaired by a licensed XYZ, only to be told by the XYZ that the defect “meets code.”This happened after an inspection a while ago regarding the TPRV drain on a water heater.  The code is pretty clear about these drains–even as to the types of pipes that can be used.  One requirement (the one that required a referee) is that there cannot be any “restrictions” in the line.  Restrictions might include, kinks, too many elbows or being reduced in size.  One thing that I frequently find installed on these drains is “flexible” connectors.  It is questionable that over the length of the connector—especially bent into a pigs-tail–that the inside diameter would measure ¾” over its length.  Add to this that at each end of the connector there is a plastic washer that has a 5/8” diameter hole, and it is pretty clear that these flexible connectors do not meet code.

Flexible connectors are not allowed on the TPRV drain

Flexible connectors are not allowed on the TPRV drain

Contacting the head plumbing inspector for the City of Seattle, he concurred with my assessment–and I was able to rest my case.  Good thing the referee has a referee in this case.

Another good reason for not using these connectors is that they can easily be pushed into a position that might result in water being trapped against the valve.  This could lead to failure of the valve due to corrosion.

Who are the buyer and seller to “believe” when a conflict of opinions like this comes up in the inspection report?  Who is the more “credible” authority regarding plumbing issues?  Is it the “generalist” Licensed Home Inspector or the “expert” Licensed Plumber?

I have no clue what the answer is (actually I do), but I do know that if the water heater finds its way through the roof of the house, and someone is seriously injured, all parties E&O will likely be called upon.

Even though, as in this case, the plumber was “wrong”—-I know that next time it might just be me that is wrong.  The willingness to be wrong is important for all of us to embrace—because it will happen.  This is what referees are for.


By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle


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  1. Wow, I can’t believe a qualified plumber actually questioned this installation. You mentioned that you run into this type of installation often during your home inspections. Personally, I have never seen flexible connections used on tprv. They are usually not long enough or not installed. I’m sure I will run into one eventually. Congratulations on being “right.” 8)

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