masterplumber.netthe logo

A roof on an apartment building collapsed because of a chewing tobacco lid.

A roof collapses because of a chewing tobacco can lid.

I have moved around a lot, no I am not hiding from the police. But this has led me to do plumbing and heating in many different areas of the United States I started doing plumbing in New York City, where want to be plumbers get run out of town. No I was Not Run OUT Of Town.

Moved to Florida, where they also have and enforce a strict plumbing code. I got my first Journeymen license in 1979. But I have also worked in up state NY and Anchorage Alaska and West (by god) Virginia. This story took place in a town in West Virginia. There was this gymnasium in town that had apartments above the gym.

I was called out to check out a leak coming through the ceiling on a rainy day, seeing this was a top floor apartment and it was too cold for any plumbing to be run over head I figured it was a roof leak so I went up on to this flat roof and saw a few inches of standing water on the roof but could not see any roof drains. But I knew I had to be wrong because there was no other way to get water off this roof, so I thought maybe the metal top that sticks up with the fence type bars was broke off. As it turned out there were no proper roof drains but a small 2” flat shower drain at the front left corner of the roof. A lid from a chewing tobacco can fit right over the drain preventing the water from draining, I removed the lid and the water started to drain. I instructed my helper to remove all the tobacco lids (remember this is West Virginia) and any other objects that could clog the drain again and went to speak to the owner of the building. I explained that the type of drain he had up there was too small, and not a proper roof drain and he needed at lease 3 more. And that it was not up to code and was causing a hazardous situation. I got the answer that I and every decent plumber has gotten every time we try to explain that some thing is dangerous.

 I almost feel like smacking people when I hear this. Anyway my warning was ignored and a few months later there was a very heavy rain I got an emergency call to go to the gym The water was running out of the gyms front door like a river I could not walk up the stairs because of the volume of water that was coming out the front door, it was unbelievable, as it turned out the roof had collapsed. God only knows for sure if it was another tobacco cap or some other item that covered this drain or if the 2” drain was just to small for the heavy down pour (well I know the 2” drain was too small or that roof)

Anyway 3 2x12 roof joists snapped and came crashing down on one of the student’s beds, thank god she was not home or sleeping at the time, she would have been killed. After this mess the owner had the roof repaired, I suggested that he install proper floor drains so this would not happen again he said no I’m doubling up the roof joists. I never spoke to this person again.
No building inspector came to inspect why this happened no permit was pulled to repair this roof and the work was never inspected.