Sump Pumps System Failure Code: Non-Compliance

Sump Pump Expert Witness

James J. Shields, P.E., Mechanical Engineer
Case Synopsis – A homeowner previously installed a basement sump pump system for the removal of storm water. The system consisted of a float-operated AC-powered motor-driven centrifugal pump, which was mounted in a below ground sump tank. The discharge piping from the pump was run through the sump tank cover, and vertically through 1½” PVC piping and check valve (to prevent reverse flow runback) to an elevation of about 8 feet above the basement floor. From this position, the pump discharge piping was run across the basement ceiling to the interior basement wall, and from there to the outdoors.
In early February 2014, the owner decided to upgrade the system with a backup pump, which would activate automatically upon the loss of AC power to his home. The owner hired a plumbing contractor to install the backup system. Beside the installation of the backup pump and the associated appurtenances, the contractor was required to integrate the new system with the existing pump and system. As reported, the modified system was later completed and tested with both pumps operating independently and jointly in a combined system arrangement. Continue reading “Sump Pumps System Failure Code: Non-Compliance”

Sprinkler Piping Installation – Code NFPA 16D Violation


James J. Shields, P.E., Mechanical Engineer ::::
Case Synopsis – A housing development company began a large multi-dwelling housing construction project at a site in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The development company hired a General Contractor to design and construct the site along with the erection of hundreds of homes. The project was planned by the development company to require several years for completion. As a first step in the process, the General Contractor obtained a building permit and produced a set of overall design drawings for the entire site, along with a set of design details for home construction. As is commonly the case, the General Contractor was responsible for the hiring of all sub-contractors. In addition, before commencing the work, all sub-contractors were required to sign a construction agreement with the General Contractor.
Approximately one year after the housing project had begun and certain housing sections had been completed, the housing developer and a prospective homeowner entered into an Agreement of Sale. The homeowner moved into the home about six months after signing the Agreement and lived in the home uneventfully for close to nine years. However, at that time, a severe water leak emerged from behind the drywall in the second-floor master bedroom. The water deluge from the leak was so great that it flowed through the wall, flooding the second story floor and pouring down two floors to the basement before the source of the water leak could be located and isolated. A vertical section of drywall was removed to expose the source of the water, which appeared to be originating from the sprinkler piping, although the exact location of the leak was still unknown. When the sprinkler system valves were shuttered the leak stopped, although, by then the volume of water released had created significant damage. The water was being supplied from the Township Water System, and the shutoff valves were able to isolate the home sprinkler system from the water supply. Continue reading “Sprinkler Piping Installation – Code NFPA 16D Violation”

Kerosene Heaters: Use with Caution

Kerosene Heaters

James J. Shields, PE, Mechanical Engineering Consultant ::::
Case Synopsis: A family wanted to add a self-contained heater for when the power goes out. They went to a nearby home and building supply store to select and purchase the heater. The store salesman recommended a kerosene heater, which could provide independent heat upon a loss of power. The salesman recommended a kerosene heater rated at 23,000 BTU/Hour, and as a feature of the heater sale, he assembled the heater and provided brief operational instructions.
Shortly after the heater was put into service in the first floor living room, fumes and smoke emanated from the heater during operation, causing soot on the walls and ceiling and extending into the upstairs. The homeowner contacted the store where the heater was purchased, but received only limited advice about ignition and wick adjustments to address the operating problems. Since the heater could not be adjusted to operate properly by the homeowner, it was eventually taken out of service and placed in storage in the homeowner’s garage. Legal steps were initiated by the homeowner to recover the costs of repairing the damage to the home. Continue reading “Kerosene Heaters: Use with Caution”