What Is a Rough Plumbing Inspection Code?

“Rough plumbing,” most commonly called the plumbing rough-in, is the initial set-up of pipes in and out of a home.


Rough-in plumbing refers to the initial hookup of pipes and fixtures with both city water and sewer.Rough-in plumbing refers to the initial hookup of pipes and fixtures with both city water and sewer.
It is called “rough” because it is done before the set-up of bathrooms and kitchen water is completed. This type of work must be done prior to there being any water service to and from the house at all. It is plumbing at its most basic.

A rough inspection refers to the state or private agency authorized by state or city to check the quality of connections in new or renovated home water systems. The rough inspection is the most fundamental review of plumbing quality because it deals most directly with the city, though the water source or sewer.

Basic Variables

The state of Connecticut's plumbing requirements are typical for most American states. The main issues in the code include the pressure of incoming water and the ability of drainage to the sewer to occur unimpeded. Since the latter does not require pumps, the structure of the pipes must be organized so as to permit gravity to pull waste water to the sewer. The working pressure, which is normally at a minimum of 5 pounds per square inch, needs to be evenly distributed throughout the house. Pipes outside the heated home must be insulated and protected from freezing and, in some cases, buried below the frost line, which in cold-weather states is about one foot underground.

Specific Variables

State, county and city governments can impose their own variations on the requirements for rough plumbing. For example, the city of Washougal, WA, has a detailed, online guide to inspecting a new or renovated, rough plumbing configuration. Because Washington is a cold-weather state, the inspections there stress freezing protection, insulation and proper burial of pipes. No pipes are permitted to be buried in concrete. The city worries about builders who replace copper with plastic pipes to save money. They want their inspectors to go over the new plastic pipes strictly. Testing the pipes' quality is done with water or air, except for plastic pipes, which can only be tested with water. Drain size, pumps and supports are stressed. Plastic lines moving horizontally, for example, must be supported every four feet. The maximum permissible water pressure in the city is 80 psi, though this is a fairly common figure throughout the country. Higher pressure can break pipe fixtures and seals.

Safety Issues

State and local codes for rough plumbing also consider safety issues. The city of Washougal, like most cities, recommends copper piping, but no one actually requires it. The city demands that copper piping have the minimum number of joints possible. This requirement is aimed at builders using scrap pipe and piecing it together to save cash. Importantly, the code also says that any pipe must be inspected to see if there are any objects, including straps, supports or natural objects, that are crushing or otherwise distorting the pipe. All of these distortions need to be fixed, but plastic pipes should be given a more thorough look. In many codes, plastic pipes are permitted but viewed with wariness. All interior fixtures are required to have “anti-scalding” governors that prevent extremely hot water from going to bathrooms. Also required are alarms for all pumps, access boxes on lawns to get to underground pipes, and mechanisms in place that evenly distribute pressure throughout the rough plumbing in and out of the house.

About the Author

Walter Johnson has more than 20 years experience as a professional writer. After serving in the United Stated Marine Corps for several years, he received his doctorate in history from the University of Nebraska. Focused on economic topics, Johnson reads Russian and has published in journals such as “The Salisbury Review,” "The Constantian" and “The Social Justice Review."