FromPastureOur barn is closing in on the finish line. One of the big holdups was the plumbing permit. When we pulled the original building permit, the builder actually submitted the combination of engineering drawings and site plans that I had created. That was nearly a year ago. At the time, we didn’t really know the details of what we wanted to do with the plumbing, and they don’t have a regular plumbing contractor whom they use. So they left it to us to pull that permit separately and handle those details ourselves. That was fine.


‘Bout time to pull that permit, I s’pose

Originally the building was targeted to complete the week before Christmas. But by November, it was clear they had slid in their schedule by several weeks. So the new projected date for concrete readiness was the last week of December or the first week of January. So mid-November, I drew up a little plumbing plan, and submitted a county request to turn it in before Thanksgiving. Our county is now so staff-starved that you can no longer walk in and submit something- you have to have an appointment for nearly everything.

I also called to ask if anyone foresaw any problems with putting in a half bath in an AG barn. Planning & Development Services (PDS) didn’t, but asked me to check with the Health District (HD), who oversees septic use. I called them too, and they said the bathroom was no problem. So, it seemed simple- plenty of time to get the permit, do the work, and get it signed off, right? Haha, famous last words!

I’m not interested in your plumbing knowledge, but do you know your way around a two-by-four?

I think it was more than a week’s turnaround time to just get the appointment. And there was no, hey, what times work for you? kind of conversation; just an appointment pushed into my Outlook inbox. This is the time slot you get, I guess! Thankfully, it landed on my work-from-home day, so it fit perfectly for a late lunch errand. I brought in my little CAD drawing of the plumbing. A plan checker glossed over it, and didn’t seem to have any interest in the plumbing.

But he had lots of detailed questions about how the bathroom would be framed-in. Um, the regular way, with 2×4 walls? I ventured. He wanted to see that on the drawing, along with how we’d anchor it to the floor (with anchor bolts, I imagine?). He wanted to see the bathroom insulated, to protect the pipes from freezing there (interestingly, this wasn’t required for the rest of the building’s plumbing). So, I was sent home to update the drawing with this information. It’s always a mystery to me what things they want to see on a drawing, versus what things are assumed. I would have thought for a plumbing permit, the standard framing of walls would be assumed; and the focus would be on making sure there was agreement on how the plumbing would be run. But not this time.

Ok, so I labeled framing details on the drawing. I emailed it back to them to ask, is this good? A week went by, and then they said, no, we want to see a drawing of the bathroom framing. So, ok, I made a 3D model drawing of a six foot bathroom with 2×4 walls, and all the details of the anchor bolts and insulation noted. That did the trick and was ok’ed via email, so I got another appointment to bring that back in. I paid a couple hundred dollars for half the permit, and they promised it should turn around in no time. Just needed the HD signoff. He thought we should have it before Christmas. Sweet! Perfect timing.FloorDrain

Done, I thought?

Christmas came and went. New Year’s eve, we get a letter in the mail from the HD. They rejected our drawing because it showed floor drains going into the septic. Septic,  according to the law, is only for human waste; and whatever you’re putting down floor drains is apparently distinctly not human waste, compared to whatever you’re rinsing down your sinks. Who knew? In  a barn, it would seem you might be rinsing the same kind of slop down either place, but what do I know? They deferred to PDS to tell us where the floor drains should lead, citing that as PDS’s jurisdiction.

The quest for floor drain answers

OK, wishing PDS knew this rule already and that they were supposed to catch this and tell us the right way to run floor drains. But, no problem, so call back into PDS to ask, where would you advise us to route the floor drains? No answer. Email, call again. They are apparently having some trouble figuring out the answers, perhaps due to the fact that surface water laws changed drastically in September.

I called the HD to try to wheedle some advice, asking, soooo, have any approved drawings come by you showing floor drains going somewhere else, so that we have a hint as to what’s considered acceptable? The guy there was really nice (my experiences with them always have been), but he didn’t know. I guess AG barns are just becoming sadly extinct in our county, so the government agencies see too few applications for them to have good familiarity with codes applying to them.

WallPlumbingSo I tried to find the answers elsewhere. I searched on the web. I keyword searched the entire Snohomish County Code and Washington Administrative Code, but neither say much about floor drains other than ones for restaurants. I asked our Farm Planner from the Conservation District (NRCS) hat the GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) is. She found out quickly for me: run them into a gravel dry well, designed kind of like a French drain. This diffuses any manure into the soil, so that nitrogen is sequestered and doesn’t sheet off into the AG ditches, and it prevents soil erosion. So I called PDS again and proposed this, submitting a revised drawing. Waited some more. Finally got an email with a waffling affirmation, saying, ok, do that. But make sure the Department of Ecology (DOE) is ok with it.

Great! Called DOE. Nice folks there too, but they were a little puzzled by why I’m calling them about this. I got transferred to several people, who each ask me to explain the whole thing a couple of times, trying to understand why I was sent to them. They conferred, called back, and finally said, yeah, a drywell sounds like a good idea to us, but it’s really not up to us. Why don’t you call Surface Water Management (SWM) and ask them?

Excellent. You can really never have too many government agencies involved in a decision, after all! Open-mouthed smile Called SWM guy. He was also very pleasant, and also confused about why I’d been sent to him. I explained the lengthening story about HD->PDS->NRCS->DOE->SWM and that everyone’s converging on the idea that the correct answer is floor drains go to drywells. Yes, he agrees, we have a winner!Staircase

OK, now we’re really done

So, I emailed names and phone numbers of all agreeing parties back to PDS. PDS asks for an updated site map showing the drywells, which end up being tiny 2mm specs on a 14 acre drawing. I quickly submitted that, and all was well. They routed it to the HD. We waited some more. And finally, the blessed email arrived: you can come pick up your permit. Whoo! And guess how much it costs to ask permission to put in one toilet, three sinks, two floor drains, and four hose bibs in a barn? $399.13. Yowza. Two months after I had requested the submittal appointment. Loving it! I can’t imagine why anyone would ever be tempted to avoid getting a permit, it’s so easy and inexpensive. Winking smile 

One thing I thought was funny was that the plan checkers had red-lined the drawing to cite that we have to put a fan in the bathroom. Really? So in an AG barn where there could be loads of manure, hosing things down, steamy ruminants, hogs, and bloody births and surgeries and slaughter, at least you could duck into the tiny bathroom and get some fresh air? Or are we worried that the humans will stink up the place? I dunno, but anyway, no big deal, we can put a fan in the bathroom. We figured putting in the fan would be easier than asking why they think we need a fan. Open-mouthed smile I suppose it’s just residential code that all bathrooms must have fans, but it did strike me as ironic.

Soon after, we had the plumbing in and done, we called for inspection, and it passed. Yippee! This all caused some delay in that the carpenters weren’t able to work on things in the order they prefer. But they did manage to find ways to keep busy while in this holding pattern. So now, they pour concrete, button up the last wall, install garage doors and gutters, correct a couple of defects, and they are outta here!