Pro builders, remodelers, HVAC guys. A question.

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by roadkillbill, Apr 6, 2013.

  1. roadkillbill

    roadkillbill Tele-Holic

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    Would you under any circumstances do the following?:

    You've temporarily removed some floor or ceiling material (including a joist or two) as part of a renovation.

    During this process you install a water heater in the attic, and an air handler for the HP in the crawl space, taking advantage of the temporary access you have created.

    When the ceiling and floors are reconstructed there really will be no way to remove and/or replace said water heater or air handler without opening up the floor or ceiling again.

    You tell your client, the homeowner that the water heater will last 20 years so it's not a problem.

    To me, this scenario is preposterous, outrageous, ridiculous, and maybe criminal. Or at least a code violation.

    But that's me. What do you think?
     
  2. Bones

    Bones Telefied Ad Free Member

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    You definitely need access to those things at some point and I'm pretty sure that the code here is that those things MUST be accessible.

    Where are the air filters for the air handler? I know i like to get to mine t change them a couple times a year.

    Also, why would you put a water heater in the attic? If a pipe breaks, it would be a disaster. Is the water heater gas? Electric?
     
  3. CarterK

    CarterK Tele-Meister

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    At best, a bad idea and probably a code violation. When I last had my heat pump replaced, the city inspector made the contractor come back and change a lot of stuff, mostly accessibility issues, before he would sign off on the work.

    When I've had water heaters go bad, it's because the bottom has rusted out and all the water runs out. Would not want that walled off in the attic. I would think they would at least frame in a scuttle access big enough for a man to get through.
     
  4. flathd

    flathd Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yeah, that sounds ridiculous. If it's a gas water heater, it has to be properly vented, and how would you light the pilot if it goes out? Also, like Bones said, why would you put the water heater in the attic?
    They also have to be drained occasionally. I would definitely have someone else look at it, and make sure they are licensed to do this type of work.
     
  5. Wailin' Tele

    Wailin' Tele Tele-Afflicted

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    Yep bad idea, there has got to be a better solution, it's not to hard or expensive to cut in an access somewhere, I think you would benefit by having another professional come in to advise you of your options.
     
  6. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I'd like to know what the actual situation is: is a contractor trying to sell you on this idea? Did you buy a house and just discover that the water heater has been sealed up in the attic? Are you trying to get a homeowner to let you do this? :D
     
  7. hotpepper

    hotpepper Tele-Meister

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    I've spent years fighting with the (smart ones) that draw up plans, or think they know something they don't. I've been in hvac for 40yrs and the stupid stuff still kills me. If what they want is the wrong way to do it or not safe I'm otta there. We should all take pride in doing our job right.
     
  8. tap4154

    tap4154 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    It's absolutely insane to mount a water heater in an attic. let alone not have easy access to it.

    Years ago I was working in a home where someone had installed a central heating gas unit in the attic, laying on it's side! Seen many bizarre and dangerous things like that over the years.
     
  9. O- Fender

    O- Fender Tele-Afflicted

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    A couple of things stick out for me.

    First, water heaters are SUPPOSED TO last 20 years. Even with a guarantee/warrantee or whatever knowledge you have, some don't. Maybe this might be the one that lasts less than 5?

    Plus, what about after said 20 years. Who is going to open up the walls/ ceiling/roof to replace it.

    I think it would be better to have it easily accessible, even if you are sacrificing space elsewhere.
     
  10. 4string

    4string Friend of Leo's

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    My 1st reaction to your scenario is to ask the question:

    Why is the water heater location being moved?

    The existing plumbing locates the water heater in a designated location. Everything needed (water lines, gas/electrical connection, raised platform, strapping, safety valve piping etc) is right there. It can be very expensive to re- locate a water heater.

    Unless there is good reason to move it, do not agree to any proposition to do so. Placing a water heater in the attic is at best a stupid location to say the least for a whole plethora of reasons. And yes, permanent access must be provided.

    The heating unit is not a problem to locate in the attic, and "sideways" units are not uncommon. You must purchase a unit designed for horizontal installation. A permanent access panel large enough for the unit to slip through is needed, along with all egress (closet doors etc) being large enough for the unit to be removed and replaced is also required.

    You need to get a building permit for your remodel. This is for YOUR protection against an unscrupulous contractor setting you up for future costly corrections or lawsuits by future owners of your home. I would assume you might someday wish to sell your property. YOU are legally responsible for any non-permitted changes made to your property for life. Could be 5 owners later!!!!

    Get a permit and be safe!


    edit: BTW, I'm a licensed contractor B and C54 (General Contractor and Ceramic Tile)
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  11. Preacher

    Preacher Friend of Leo's

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    As a part time home remodeler you would be surprised what people will tell people who don't know any different.

    "Oh yeah, no problems with that water heater in the attic, never had one go bad one me. Now if you will just sign my final bill saying everything is good and pay the $$ I will be on my way". Of course he probably won't be in business 4-5 years down the line when that water heater starts to break down. And if he is he will have you show the paperwork which in he never guaranteed the heater to last that long and he will produce the paperwork that you signed off on saying everything is AOK...

    Most times someone who will do that is either too unskilled, too lazy or just plain too dumb to make what they are trying to do work and allow you to live with it. That is why I do most of the work that I can myself and I always study up on any remodel job I am hiring a guy to do for me.
     
  12. sonserve

    sonserve Friend of Leo's

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    Thank you! Same here. What the OP describes is a code violation anywhere in the states and really dumb. Get in touch with the licensing and regulation board in your state. Whoever did that needs to get out there and make it right.
    As a facility manager I have been wrestling with the results of poor design and idiotic installation. Man, it's getting old. :mad:
    Sorry I need to vent...
     
  13. roadkillbill

    roadkillbill Tele-Holic

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    Thanks and an update

    I appreciate all your responses, and you're all right on.

    This contractor has finished a total renovation of my 1927 Duplex and it truly is a remarkable transformation. New electric, new floor plan, central air/hp, granite countertops, cool appliances, washer and dryer, new bathrooms, all what a gentrified victorian neighborhood in a trendy college town duplex should be.

    All this new stuff that wasn't there had to go somewhere and it is a challenge, and the water heater in the attic was certainly a compromise and not anyone's first choice.

    As to the problem at hand, the HVAC sub told me today that the 20x20" return he mounted ....very close to where this water heater is....would be adequate, but not necessarily real easy, for removal/replacement of the water heater. This hasn't been verified, but it has to be, or the contractor will be making some expensive changes at his expense. Final payment has not been made. It is a code violation if you can't get an appliance like that out, period.

    So maybe this will work out but I know for a fact that when I brought this to the contractor's attention yesterday he truly wasn't aware that the AC return could function as an access point for removal of the water heater. He's inexperienced. He'd also never heard of steel reinforced braided washer hoses.

    Bottom line is this will work out one way or another, but I did choose the wrong guy for this job, no doubt about it.

    I'll be talking to the plumbing sub later and get to the bottom of it.
     
  14. 4string

    4string Friend of Leo's

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    You don't have a permit do you?

    :rolleyes:

    As a minimum, I cannot urge you strongly enough that you need to hire a 3rd party building inspector to look at what your contractor has done, and write up a report. This is not expensive in the big picture; like getting an appraisal. Use this to get your contractor to AS A MINIMUM make all needed corrections to his work SO THAT IT PASSES CODE. If he has a license, he is obligated to build to code no matter what other considerations exist. Period. Or lose his license...

    A cold air return is NOT access. By code anywhere in the USA you MUST have adequate access for all the mechanicals in the attic. What is your plan for when the water heater has one of any numerous situations where you need to get to it? If I am reading your posts correctly you are in for an extremely expensive lesson best scenario and a life changing event worst scenario. GET SOME PROFESSIONAL ADVISE! Stop listening to your contractor as he has already given you bad advise!
     
  15. flathd

    flathd Poster Extraordinaire

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    This seems like a perfect situation where you would use a tankless electric water heater. They are more expensive, but having the water heater in the attic is just asking for trouble. Yeah, I say get a permit and do it right.

    BTW, this contractor sounds like a hack. I'm not even going to ask if he has a contractors license.
     
  16. Sw0rdfish

    Sw0rdfish Tele-Meister

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    The hvac contractor said the return register doubles as access? Sounds like a retro fit that is going south you might consider framing out a closet and give up some Sq. footage then put water heaters in attics and have no access to it or the air handler.
     
  17. LeftyAl

    LeftyAl Friend of Leo's

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    Being in the hvac trade for over 30 years,I have to wonder if you have permits to do this work. I hope you are joking about using the air conditioning return duct as a way of removing the water heater.Either way ,I'm happy your in Virginia and I'm down here in Florida
     
  18. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire

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    There has to be some kind of access to get to the mechanical stuff. If I had a water tank in the attic space ( I've seen this before sometimes only choice) I would also insist on a metal pan under the water tank with a drain pipe stubbed out and visible in case there is a problem, most water heaters start dripping to indicate a problem. I agree with acalan is there a permit ?
     
  19. Bones

    Bones Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Being that this is a duplex, you are really putting yourself in jeopardy if that water tank blows and floods your neighbor's unit from the top down as well.
     
  20. roadkillbill

    roadkillbill Tele-Holic

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    Right, happy you're in Fla too...yes, got permits from the City of Richmond, inspections supposedly done, not just winging it here.

    While removing ductwork at a return-- for the time it takes to shoot a water heater through it-- is unusual, if it turns out that it is really code compliant, i.e. you do have the ability to remove the appliance, then I could live with it.

    At such time that a change out is necessary, a tankless water heater, I agree, would be a great option.

    If it turns out there's anything weird with the permits, that'll be dealt with too.

    Electric hot water heater, btw...not gas..

    And yes, a pipe breaking in a duplex like this is a disaster, but for the 25 years I've owned the building I've had a water heater on the second floor, and lived with it. Having it one floor higher poses about the same risk.
     
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