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Dear Mr Plumber: SABS plays essential part in our lives

Dear Mr Plumber: SABS plays essential part in our lives

By Vollie Brink, Pr Eng

The objective of the SABS is to ensure best practice and best quality of materials — equipment and standards in our case — in relation to the water services of buildings and what you would call the plumbing installation.

I have been sitting around the committee tables and the working group tables of the SABS since the 1970s. Likewise, people such as Martin Coetzee and others from manufacturers have spent many hours free of charge to the SABS but in the interest of the country and to ensure that we have the best standards and the best quality of what we use in our water and drainage systems.

This work ensures that when you purchase a wash hand basin, a bath, a water pipe, a drainage pipe, or a tap washer with the mark of the SABS, you can be assured that it is best quality and appropriate for the intended use.

In the 1970s, most of the materials and equipment were locally manufactured and complied with the SABS standards; nowadays, most are imported and made according to other standards, such as the EN and ISO, and the quality is in some cases not what we were used to, not always acceptable, and non-compliant with the SABS standards.

In terms of the sanitary drainage system, there are only seven ‘regulations’. One of these, namely P2, refers to the design of a drainage system. An important requirement thereof is the integrity of the piping.

See the following:
P2 DESIGN OF DRAINAGE INSTALLATIONS

  1. (d) all components and materials used in such installation are watertight;
    (e) no nuisance or danger to health will be caused as a result of the operation of any such installation.

These two requirements are crucial in terms of the design and the selection of the pipe materials.

In the 1970s, plastic pipes were a new trend of piping for sanitary drainage systems and many people were sceptical and reluctant to use it, but today, it has become common practice. However, it must be used correctly. Most important is the underground and above ground type of piping; yet, in terms of the above ground piping, the correct pipe material in terms of ultraviolet (UV) resistance is critical.

It has been discovered that some plastic piping that is not up to standard and not UV compliant has found its way onto the market. These are sold as above ground piping, which is in contravention of the SABS standard for piping, and design and installation standard SANS10400-P and SANS10252-2.

The longevity of these pipes and suitability thereof for external use are in question, and it seems it is also used in low-cost housing, which will cause serious problems in future in terms of compliance with the performance regulations. It could also cause problems for the designers, plumbers, and the owners of the buildings where these have been installed.

It is critical that the standards are maintained and that correct piping be used for the external systems in terms of UV resistance.


Good workmanship comes from proper training and education.


The building inspectorate has a responsibility to ensure that approved materials are used in installations. PIRB registered plumbers must also ensure that the correct approved pipe materials are used in installations and that these materials are guaranteed by the manufacturers and the suppliers.

The designers and plumbers depend on the manufacturers to produce materials that are compliant with the applicable standards; therefore, the role of the manufacturer is central to ensure proper materials and equipment.

The sanitary drainage piping of a building is supposed to last for at least 20–25 years and is a costly long-term investment. Consequently, the quality of the pipe materials is critical and it is also important for the health and safety of the owners of the buildings.

A basic element of the National Building Regulations is health and safety. The integrity of the sanitary drainage piping is vital to ensure that the piping complies with the compulsory regulations.

SAPPMA, the South African Plastic Pipe Manufacturers Association, is a haven for manufacturers to propagate and ensure decent quality piping and the products of their members should be recommended.

We have good South African standards and norms, but it is a general problem that it is not always properly and appropriately implemented and ‘policed. Hence, the PIRB plays a key role to carry out inspections and certify the installations.

The large projects are mostly designed by engineers. They are responsible for ensuring that the contractor institutes a quality assurance system, of which the requirements must include ensuring that the pipe materials and equipment comply with an acceptable standard; that the materials and systems are tested, approved, and guaranteed; and that the completed system will last for the minimum design horizon of 20–25 years.

You must ensure that you use and install only the best quality of piping that complies with an appropriate standard; that the piping carries an appropriate guarantee; and that the system is appropriately tested and certified — both in your interest and that of your client.

It is imperative that your workmanship is of the best standard, because in many cases we have found that poor workmanship is the cause of pipe failures of systems.

Good workmanship comes from proper training and education, and for this the manufacturer can play a key role, as they are always willing to assist with the training of plumbers, both on and off site.

I always recommend that the plumber should insist that the manufacturer not only demonstrates, but also trains its staff to order, store, and install the piping correctly and to the requirements of the manufacturer, and to conduct inspections at certain agreed upon intervals, and definitely at completion. They should also issue certificates of completion and satisfaction.

The pipe manufacturer must be regarded as a ‘partner’ of the specific project and be co-responsible for the success of the installation.

I hope you will make sure that you use only the correct piping manufactured with the correct material and in compliance with appropriate approved material.

Happy piping.


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