After a lot of work to remove and replace the old systems of the cabin I am starting to get some function back in the cabin.

Last fall I removed over 650 pounds of old cast iron waste line systems from the cabin.  It all went to the recycling business here in Eagle, and in one of these posts I'll provide a summary of that recycling effort.

So, after removing the waste line and installing a new sewer line to the cabin I have FINALLY, gotten the new plumbing waste system installed.  Yesterday I tested the system.  That to say I am now starting to get the plumbing systems back on line.   

When finally installed I want to make sure the integrity of the system is sound before putting it to full time / permanent use.

This is the concept of commissioning.  

There are many ways to commission systems and there are standards that are  developed for commissioning especially when testing the integrity of building systems on larger projects. Commissioning is an integral aspect of LEED projects and is now a significant part of the IGCC (International Green Construction Code).  

So as I get the active working systems of the cabin installed and back working I want to test them to make sure they are working before they are finally put to use - commissioning.

I will also note that I have asked the local building official Bob Kohrman - Town of Eagle Building Official - a lot of questions.  He has kindly indulged me and has helped a lot.   

If you are like me and doing work yourself, don't hesitate to ask questions of your building official or inspector.  They really do want to help you get the installation right.  Codes are codes, like them or not, they are in place for our safety.  And, remember, the systems you install now will more than likely be in place for a long time - fifty years maybe or more.  We need to get them right to insure the life of and safety of the system. 

Waste lines are gravity systems.  That means they must slope to allow gravity to work and move the water and waste through the system by sloping the lines.  So I wanted to check slope and the integrity of the system.

The methodology I used was simple:
1.  Pipe slope:  

  • I have a pretty good eye and most of the installed system looked to have a slope that was equal to or greater than 1/4" per foot.  One section, though, looked a little more level than the rest. 
  • The test method:  a bullet level.  When I set the small level on the suspect area the bubble moved to the right indicating there was a reasonable slope (at least 1/4" per foot).  I accepted that section.
  • I checked another couple of areas and felt pretty good about the installed nature of the system.
2.  System integrity
  • Water test:
    • This was a real simple test.  I put a hose in each of four points in the system that would have a fixture that would be an entry point for water or waste running through them.  The kitchen sink, the bathroom lavatory, the water closet and  the washer / dryer.
    • I started the hose out at low flow, primarily so I could make sure the hose would stay in the orifice at first and then as I increased the amount of water running through the system.  So ultimately I want from a low flow to maximum water volume at each point.
    • During each elevation of water volume I put my hand under each joint that would be receiving water flow to feel for any moisture - any moisture.  I did not want a stray drop of water coming through the pipes for obvious reasons.
      • One of those reasons was that when I opened the floor I found multiple breaks in the old galvanized piping and a lot of damp soil.  I don't want that in my crawl space.
    • I also visually inspected each joint with a bright flashlight to make sure I saw no water dripping.
    • The volume of water coming out of the hose was much more on a prolonged basis than the system would experience under normal operating conditions and thus was - in my professional opinion - a decent test to verify the system integrity.

As I bring the functions back to the cabin I will be commissioning each system to make sure it performs as intended before it gets to work under normal occupancy load.  It is important to do this while I still have openings in the floor so that I can reasonably access any area requiring adjustment to assure the integrity of the system prior to closing it up.

I will test the new plumbing supply lines in the same fashion.  

It is really important to note that a good commissioning of the system - no matter who installs the system - is important because whether owner installed (as is the case here) or a system installed by others (in this case the water supply plumbing) there is always the possibility a sweat joint or fitting did not get installed quite right in spite of the good intentions and craftsmanship of the tradesperson installing the system.  Especially in the case of plumbing, it is better to catch any leaks now - before putting the wall surfaces up - than finding them later with all the nasty stuff that comes with that discovery.  A plumber will appreciate the opportunity to address a pin hole leak now rather than later.

Commissioning Results:
The waste lines passed my inspection.  I observed both by visual and manual inspection of the systems. that there was no leaking in the system and the integrity of the system is sound.  I am therefore certifying the system ready for normal use.

Chris Green