The Fundamentals Of 21st Century Plumbing

Yara Zakharia, Esq.

A hot shower, clean drinking water, a bubbling home spa, central heating...all of these and so much more come to us courtesy of the skilled trade known as plumbing. Dating as far back as 2700 B.C., plumbing has become an indispensable and integral aspect of our daily lives, so much so that we often take it for granted until the pipes or tubing go awry. Contrary to popular belief, good plumbing which comprises tasks ranging from fixing frozen or noisy pipes, stopped-up sinks, and leaky faucets to clogged showerheads, toilet leaks, and sluggish drains, is more than just a mechanical process. Rather, it requires technical creativity as well as the proper application of physics, math, and science. To fix a leaky shower faucet, replace plumbing fixtures, or perform plumbing repair or renovation either themselves or by way of delegation to a professional home repair contractor, homeowners should be familiar with the modern-day plumbing process and its various functions.

Central Functions of Plumbing

Plumbing systems play two central roles:

  1. They convey fresh water to homes by way of supply pipes, which in turn carry it to the fixtures; and
  2. Their vent and drainage pipes enable the transfer of the waste water to the point of disposal.

What are Fixtures?

In the plumbing context, these constitute the outlets and receptacles that furnish access to the water supply and make it possible to dispose of it. Plumbing fixtures connect the supply and drainage mechanisms and include such items as:

  • laundry hoses
  • tubs
  • sinks
  • water closets
  • showers
  • external faucets (i.e. for the garden or yard)
  • toilets
  • bathroom faucet
  • hot tub nozzles
  • washing machines

Consumers should opt for fixtures without enclosures and fabricated out of materials that are non-absorbent. Plumbing fixtures should also be easy to clean and boast a design that is functional in nature. For plumbing fixtures to work effectively, the supply and drainage mechanism must be adequate.

Importance of Water Pressure

Plumbing systems rely on the right measure of water pressure. Professional plumbers are trained to know just how much water pressure to distribute, modify, and preserve. One of their tasks consists in calibrating and applying the appropriate range of pressure to each fixture. For instance, water pressure must be reduced as it proceeds from the water main to the residential property. At the same time, an adequate level of pressure is needed in different areas of the plumbing system to assure a sufficient flow.

What Is the DWV?

The drainage, waste, and vent system plays a pivotal role in the plumbing process and depends on gravity for its operation. The two key components of the DWV are 1) the drain pipes which transport liquid and solid waste to the home's septic system and 2) the venting system, which enables air to flow within the drainage system and expedites the elimination of gases and odors from the latter. For air pressure to be released and septic gases to be blocked from entering the home, the plumbing apparatus must be properly vented. By allowing fresh air to circulate, drainage is improved and the likelihood of corrosion is reduced. The DMW's success in carrying waste to the sewage system hinges upon 1) the right calculation for the downward slope, 2) adequate venting, and 3) a waste pipe with the correct internal diameter.

The DWV's drain pipes are connected to the washer, showers, baths, toilets, and sinks, among other things. Consumers should carefully choose the pipes that will supply water to the fixtures. Pipes should be able to withstand the corrosive elements of the water that flow through them. Traditional pipes are fabricated out of copper, brass, wrought iron, or galvanized steel. The most commonly-used material for the DWV pipes is cast iron, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). For cold and hot water supply lines, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is the most frequently-utilized material.

Code Regulation of Plumbing Systems

Plumbers must abide by local, state, and federal codes regulating the installation and design of plumbing systems. For instance, there are regulations governing pipe materials for certain functions, the placement of shutoff valves, the type of fitting to be used in attaching pipes, the degree of slope for drain pipes, and the pipes' internal diameter.

What is a P-Trap?

All fixtures that have drains come with a P-trap, a device shaped in the form of a "U" that is installed below tubs and sinks. By trapping water in the bend, the P-trap blocks the septic gases that are flowing inside the drainage system from seeping into the residence. Preferably, traps should be smaller than the fixture drains.

Plumbing Supplies

Homeowners may purchase residential plumbing parts and supplies online and from their local hardware or home & garden store. A wide range of plumbing supplies are available, including the following:

  • plumbing fittings
  • circulating pumps
  • stoppers and drains
  • clog busters
  • galvanized straps
  • waste bends
  • P-traps
  • solder
  • shower heads
  • pipe hangers
  • faucet replacement parts
  • grease traps
  • toilet flush valves
  • sediment removal water filters

Homeowners choosing the do-it-yourself home improvement route should have the following basic plumbing tools handy:

  • basic wrench
  • adjustable wrench
  • locking-jaw wrench
  • seat wrench
  • snakes or hand auger
  • plunger
  • closet augers
  • pliers
  • flathead screwdrivers
  • duct tape and expoxy putty (sealant and glues)


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