I received a phone call last month asking if a product was properly listed. The caller said that the label indicated that the product passed the test of Section XYZ of standard ABC123-95.

I had to laugh when I heard the information on the label. My immediate response was the product is not listed; it can just pass one of the tests on an older version of the standard. The “-95” indicates that the standard was published in 1995. Looking up the standard, I informed the caller that the section referenced has since been changed in the standard. There is a new test requirement.

Then he asked, “How can a manufacturer do that?”

Unfortunately, this manufacturer was not completely honest regarding their product. Either a product is listed, or it is not. You cannot complete one test and imply that the product meets a standard. All of the tests required by the standard must be completed and passed.

Shortly after that call, I received another call about a product that clearly wasn’t listed. The literature indicated that the product was exempt from the listing requirement by a certain installation standard. The question was, “Does that still comply with the plumbing code?”

The short answer was, “No.”

For this particular product, the installation was in a jurisdiction that adopts the ICC International Plumbing Code (IPC). The IPC requires all plumbing products to be listed and labeled.

If this product was installed in a jurisdiction adopting the IAPMO Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), the same requirement applies. The UPC requires all plumbing products to be listed.

Even though the manufacturer claims that one standard exempts the product from requiring a listing, it does not shift over to the IPC or UPC. Both the IPC and UPC state that when there are differences between referenced standards and the code, the code always takes precedence. Hence, a listing is required.

Most plumbing contractors pay no attention to the listing requirements. They assume that the manufacturer is selling an acceptable product and the supply house knows what they are selling. Additionally, most plumbing contractors have no idea how difficult — and often expensive — the listing process is.

Realize that manufacturers know that their products have to comply with the plumbing code in order to be installed. Furthermore, they know that both the IPC and UPC require products to be listed. They also know that there is a caveat in both codes that allow acceptance of a product that does not have a listing or has not completed the listing process.

Listings are done by a third-party entity. The names you will hear include CSA, IAPMO, Intertek, NSF, and UL. These are the big boys, but there are many other listing agencies for plumbing products.

Before a listing can be issued, the product must be tested to a given standard. The IPC and UPC identify the particular standard in the code. Once the product passes all of the tests in the standard, the factory where the product is manufactured is inspected. Part of every listing is continuous monitoring of the manufacturer and their quality control program. The manufacturer must pay an annual fee plus a fee for the inspection every time the listing agency shows up unannounced at the factory.

This entire listing process is done to protect you, the plumbing contractor, as well as your customers. The listing process assures you that the product meets the minimum requirements to be used in a plumbing system.

Like the IPC and UPC, standards are continuously updated. When a new edition of a standard is published, the listing agencies give the manufacturers a time period in which they must update their listing to comply with the latest standard. If the manufacturer fails to meet that update deadline, the listing is dropped.

The third-party listing agencies make it easy for you to check if a listing is current. They publish on the internet all of their listings. You can easily check if a product is listed and to what standard.

Getting back to those two phone calls. During each call, I checked on my computer with the various listing agencies, the ones I call the big boys, to see if the product in question was listed. In both cases, I could not find a listing for either product. As such, they are not permitted by the IPC or UPC, unless the contractor or owner files a request for alternative approval. Again, something that is rather time-consuming for each installation.

Plumbing contractors always ask me for a Cliffs Notes version of how to determine if a plumbing product meets the code. Every listing agency requires the manufacturer to put their mark or logo (often called “bug”) on the product. For most products, the standard that the product is listed to must also appear.

I just picked up a showerhead off my desk and looked at the writing. It has a CSA logo on the backside of the showerhead. It also reads, “2.0 gpm – 7.6 L/min, A112.18.1M.”

The standard that regulates showerheads is ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1. This standard covers faucets, fixture fittings, and showerheads. It is a joint harmonized standard between the U.S. and Canada. Hence, ASME stands for, “American Society of Mechanical Engineers,” and CSA stands for, “Canadian Standards Association.”

The other information on the showerhead is the flow rate at 80 psi. This is required by the ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 standard to be on the showerhead. That way, you know what the maximum flow rate is through the showerhead.

If you don’t see a third-party listing agency’s mark or logo, question the manufacturer. Don’t be caught installing a product that is not third-party listed. If the listing or label does not indicate full compliance to the required standard, again, question the manufacturer.

Complying with a few tests in a standard doesn’t cut it. A product must comply with the complete standard and pass all of the test requirements. When in doubt, search the internet to look for the product’s listing.

Fortunately for the plumbing industry, all of the major manufacturers that you deal with on a daily basis know the listing requirements and have their products listed. They are helping you out by selling you quality, code complying plumbing products.