Change to the Illinois Plumbing Code… For the Better!

Good Ole Illinois

I have been a plumber for 30 plus years now. I started my career shortly after I graduated high school. Afterward, I spent the next 5 years as an apprentice. I was going to school and working in the field at the same time. My mentor was a trained craftsman that was doing his part to pass on the trade. I was very fortunate to have worked with some very fine craftsman who insisted on the highest level of quality work performed in a timely fashion.

I learned how to install plumbing systems that were true, plumb, and up to the codes of the day while keeping up with tight deadlines. That single day a week that was spent in school learning the intense math, geometry, plan reading, and codes of the trade made me a competent journeyman when I graduated from my apprenticeship. However, the Illinois Plumbing Code showed me that life is a never-ending lesson.

Just Because You’re Done with Plumbing School Doesn’t Mean Your Done Learning Plumbing

I thought I was done with school, Good Riddance to the books and scratch papers solving offsets and square roots…. Boy was I wrong! I used all those skills on a daily basis in the field. I performed many of the intricate mathematical formulas from memory on a daily basis.

However, I have found through the years that the learning part never stops. I have spent 34 years studying plumbing. Literally on a daily basis, there is something that requires study, whether it is a innovation or the introduction of new codes.

New technology drives the major portion of our studies today. I had to learn new things about everything from underground pipelining technologies down to something as simple as a new connection fitting between the toilet and the collar that anchors your toilet at home. Every day, there is something to be learned.

No More Local Plumbing Codes in Illinois Thanks to the New Illinois Plumbing Code

Preparing to write this article, it became apparent to me that plumbing has become the study of my life. I started after high school and have not stopped ever since.

Today in Illinois, our public health department that administers the state’s plumbing code revised and published our new state plumbing code, entitled the Illinois Plumbing Code. Gone are many of the conflicting statements and seemingly unnecessary codes. The release of the new code carries a great rider to the code.

It basically states that EVERYONE in the State will have to follow the new code. GONE are all the local city town and municipal “amendments” to the old code. These made it not only difficult to keep track of what the town wanted, but they also made it those town’s wish lists more expensive than they would normally be.

There Used to Be Many Towns with Different Plumbing Codes

One of the more onerous amendments was the requirement to use cast iron and copper for drainage systems and specific types of copper for the potable water pipe system. Plastic pipe for drains and vents while specific types of plastic pipe were allowed for potable water before as well.

However, the vast majority of towns passed amendments banning the use of this material. Behind all these amendments is the town’s plumbing inspector. He advises the town

Illinois Plumbing Code
PVC Plastic is now approved everywhere

board what materials he would like to see being used and how he intends to put them in place. Is the real picture starting to emerge? If the inspector had a “dislike “ for plastic, the town passed an amendment to use copper only based on the inspector’s green light.

Most times, no other viable reason was required to enact an amendment in a town. It rapidly became a problem whenever someone tried to perform work in neighboring towns. Many inspectors just required you to work according to their preferences, even in the absence of amendments to the code.


Town Boards Listened to Inspectors instead of Codes

For years, the inspectors were allowed to get away with their whims. That’s because no one had the time to write the state and obtain a determination from the Chief State Plumbing inspector to overturn the local inspectors’ requirements.

Why? Because almost all of the construction tasks are tied to a “fast track” schedule. Neither the plumbing contractor nor the builder could afford to wait 4 or 5 weeks to receive a response from the State Inspector. This would imply that they have to pause their project for an undetermined amount of time.  They would have to wait to pour concrete over an underground plumbing system until further notice.

Let’s say you did take the time to work through the bureaucratic hoops and received a response that the local inspector wasn’t going to answer your demands. In this case, your endeavors would cause no repercussions to the inspector, deeming your efforts as a waste of time. He would continue on the same route enforcing his wishes on the next unlucky contractor.

Local Plumbing Codes are Unenforceable

Illinois Plumbing Code
$5000.00 Fines for Plumbing Inspectors

Well, today that is all over. The new Illinois Plumbing Code states that all existing amendments are unenforceable as of the date of release of the new code. If a town, village or city wants to enact a new “amendment” to the code, they now have to show that their amendment is being proposed due to a Life or Health issue. Therefore, they can no longer change the code due to a personal preference for material type or a specific fitting configuration.

On top of that, if the inspector is caught enforcing codes that are made up of his desires, he is PERSONALLY fined with $5,000 by the State…According to the new Illinois Plumbing Code, it will NOT be the municipality the inspector works for the party that receives the fine.

If that isn’t incentive enough to enforce a uniform, standardized state code, I don’t know what is. All in all, the new Illinois Plumbing Code changes will ultimately make it easier for the contractor to perform his work AND save the homeowner money! WOW! Imagine a government agency that enacted a law that didn’t cost the taxpayers money! Good on the Illinois Department of Public Health!

Exception to the Plumbing Code

Except…The Great State of Chicago! They retain their code…. Why not? They live in a different world, right? What works in the suburbs will

Illinois Plumbing Code
The Great State of Chicago

never work in the city, right?

Therefore, I still have a lesson to learn. Expert Plumbing Service has begun its own weekly Illinois Plumbing Code review classes to teach our plumbers all about the new Illinois code and the changes between the old and the new.The study of my life….34, 35……

May your pipes run freely, and the sewer gas always be at your back!

Kevin Brennan

Expert Plumbing Service, Inc.

You can find Kevin @ ExpertPlubmers.


  1. Hello –

    This is a great article but I can’t find it in the state plumbing code. Can someone point me to where this was published?


    1. This is a funny reply it actually was published however since this was published the individual towns have petitioned the state and they have thrown that right out the window. Towns can now have their own amendments to the state plumbing code. Back to the stone ages and town fiefdoms. It’s ridiculous.

      Sean K

  2. My question is the day ever allow Pex piping in Chicago I noticed that it’s around the suburbs and other cook County’s areas what about Chicago because the piping will expand four to five times its size when Frozen at-will contract back to its normal size when it thaws out without fussing unlike regular piping or copper what will bus and leak between the walls the PEX piping will not and it’s easy to run between the walls and connect with different joints so will they ever or did they allow for Pex piping in Chicago I wait for your answer thank you

    1. Hello Anthowine,

      Ah this is such a good question. PEX is being used everywhere but in the major municipalities. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with its performance it all about the labor. Unions will keep PEX from widespread use. In home there is really no good reason not use it, in commercial building I can see the need for hard piping. I don’t ever see Chicago allowing PEX to be used in commercial buildings.

    2. This is a great question. Let me say that the issue with PEX being approved in Chicago has nothing to do with performance and has everything to do with labor. It’s just easier to install. You don’t need near the skill level. I could see Chicago allowing PEX to be used in homes in the future but because of the strength of labor unions I don’t believe PEX will ever be allowed. Having said that, as a professional plumber I can see why PEX would be difficult to install in hi-rise buildings. Hard piping is easier to hang and secure and it’s much quieter.

    1. For sure you are seeing more PVC in Chicago. Any residential building 3 stories and under can use PVC. When are they gonna let commercial building use it is another question.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *