What is in Plumbing

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What is in Plumbing

What is in Plumbing
Plumbing improves our lives in many ways.

What is in plumbing is pressure lines, drainage lines, and venting.  Plumbing provides the ability to shower, bathe, wash, facilitates cooking, and eliminates waste.

Plumbing also helps us to water the lawn, wash the car, and perform many other tasks that we may take for granted.

The advent of indoor plumbing has improved, and enhanced our lives to a great degree.  It has eliminated disease and other health problems previously caused by lack of ability to eliminate waste safely.

I will include information about the history of plumbing.  I will also explain what plumbing jobs can be attempted by do-it-yourselfers DIY’s, and which plumbing jobs are best left up to the professionals.

I will also make recommendations for plumbing tools, and supplies, as well as where to find reputable contractors to do the job for you.

History of Plumbing

The word plumbing stems from the Latin word for lead, which is plumbum.

Although plumbing may have begun prior, the first evidence of effective plumbing on a large scale was that of the ancient Romans.

The ancient Romans had an ingenious aqueduct system that allowed water to flow from the rivers into the cities.

They also devised a system to allow waste to flow out away from their homes, and public gathering areas by way of sewers.

What is in Plumbing
Early Roman plumbing developed in 800 B.C.

The best estimate is these plumbing projects were first built around the year 800 B.C.  With the fall of the Roman Empire, most of these plumbing systems were lost.

It would be another 1300 years until new innovations of plumbing would reappear.  In the year 1340 monasteries of Monks engineered a system of plumbing by utilizing river water to assist them in cooking, irrigation, and waste elimination.

It was well know at this time that water was not safe to drink, and, as a result, wine and ale were the beverages of choice.

The first flush toilet was invented and used around the year 1575 by John Harrington, for the queen of England, Queen Elizabeth.

It wasn’t until the year 1775 before it was discovered by Alexander Cumming that by trapping water with an S bend, also called a U bend or a J bend, that established a water barrier between the human waste and the interior room could help eliminate offensive, and disease causing odors and remnants.

Around this time, bathing was coming into fashion.  Copper tubs were becoming common, and the first showers began to appear.

For decades, bathrooms remained very basic. In 1842, things began to change. Engineers in New York designed a gravity system that delivered water to homes throughout the city.

They used the same principle, gravity, to come up with a sewer system to take waste water away from homes.

Many other cities then followed suit with similar systems of their own. Indoor plumbing made cleaning up a practical endeavor, and became commonplace.

Do It Yourself Plumbing Jobs
What is in Plumbing
Some plumbing jobs are DIY.

There are many plumbing jobs that are relatively easily accomplished.  There are many other plumbing jobs that should never be attempted by anyone but a licensed plumber.

A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t know what you are doing, and/or if you don’t have some basic tools that can be used in a plumbing application, call a plumber.

If you are a handy person, have at least some basic plumbing knowledge, and have a few tools, or are willing to buy or borrow the tools you need, you may be able to accomplish some simple plumbing jobs around the house.

Repair Faucets  A common plumbing job that is fairly easy to do in most cases is to repair a leaky faucet in the kitchen or bath.

If you have a leak that comes out of the spout of the faucet, it is usually caused by a bad seat at the base beneath the valve in a two handle faucet.

In a single handle faucet,  bad washers or a bad ball are usually the culprit, depending on the maker of the faucet.

If you have a two handle faucet, place your hand under the spout and see if the water that is leaking is hot or cold. This will tell you which side needs to be repaired.

Turn the water off under the sink on the side that is leaking.  It is a good idea to locate the main water shut off coming into the house.
In case you encounter a leak that you cannot control, turn the water off at the main.

Remove the handle, and the valve.  If the washer at the bottom of the valve has a furrow or is hacked up, then you know the seat that the valve sits on is pitted. Use a seat wrench to remove the seat.

What is in Plumbing
A hardware store or plumbing supply will have the parts and tools you need.

Take the seat and the valve that you removed into your plumbing supply or hardware store, and buy a new seat and washer.

If the bottom of the valve is destroyed and will no longer hold a washer, replace the entire valve.  Take the new parts, and reinstall them into your faucet.

If you have a leak coming from the handle, you will need to replace the o-ring, which is a round black rubber ring that surrounds the valve.

If you have a single handle faucet, you will need to remove the faucet handle, and replace the washers, springs, and possibly the ball that is underneath.

Bathroom Faucet – Repair and Installation

Replace Faucets  Replacing kitchen and bath faucets is another relatively simple plumbing job that can be achieved by a do it yourselfer in most cases.

The only catch to doing this job yourself, and really any plumbing job, is the plumbing tools that you should have.

It may be possible to complete this and other plumbing jobs without the right tools, but it will be more difficult.

Your first step is to turn the water off at the valves under the sink that holds the faucet you want to replace.  Unscrew the supply lines that lead up to the faucet at the valves under the sink.

Leave the supply lines attached to the bottom of the faucet. Unscrew the connecting nuts that hold the faucet to the sink.  You may need a plumber’s wrench that flexes down in order to remove the nuts.

You may also need a flat head screwdriver to pry the faucet base from the sink.  Once the faucet is loose from the sink you can take it with you to your plumbing supply or hardware store to buy a new one.

What is in Plumbing
Fixing a dripping faucet is no big deal.

You will need to at least bring the supply lines in with you so that you are sure to get the right sized replacement supply line as the sizes of the connecting nut can vary.

When you buy the new faucet you want, you should also buy new supply lines, and buy some teflon tape, and some plumbers putty.

Use the teflon tape around the exposed threads prior to connecting your new supply lines to your new faucet.  Use a line of plumbers putty around the inside of the base of the new faucet where it sits on the sink to give you a waterproof seal.

Install your new supply lines to the base of your new faucet before inserting it in the holes of the sink.  Screw the nuts to the base of the faucet, and then attach the new supply lines to the valves.

Kitchen Faucet – Repair and Installation

Other DIY Plumbing Jobs

Other do it yourself plumbing jobs that are often taken on by non professionals include:

Toilet repair and replace   Such jobs are replacing the wax ring, replacing the washer between the toilet and bowl, replacing the toilet water supply line, and replacing the toilet supply valve are all repairs that are not too difficult, in most cases.

To repair or to replace the entire toilet, follow these steps.  Turn the water valve off, flush the toilet, unscrew the supply line from the valve, unscrew the nuts holding the toilet to the ring in the floor, and pull toilet off.

Replacing the flush valve, and the flapper assembly that are located in the tank, are also easy repairs.

When replacing a toilet, be sure to know the rough in distance. This is determined by measuring from the wall to the center of the hole in the floor.

Shower repair and replace  Plumbing jobs such as fixing a leaky tub spout by replacing the valve seats, washers, or valves is very doable.

The steps needed are similar to that of repairing a faucet.
You will however need to buy or borrow a set of shower socket wrenches to accomplish this task.

Shower replacement normally involves replacing the valves, the handles, the shower arm, and shower head, and the bath spout (if applicable) which is easily done, most of the time.

If the entire shower/bath set up from behind the wall needs to be fixed or replaced, it’s time to call a plumber.

Other jobs that can be done without a plumber are, repairing and replacing outdoor hose bibbs, repairing leaks in drain(non pressurized) pipes, and fixing or replacing sprinkler piping, sprinkler heads, and sprinkler valves.

In addition, if you have drain or toilet clogs, you should be able to clear the obstructions yourself.  There are various products that can be applied to the area, and drain ‘snakes’ that can be utilized to fix the issue.

What is in Plumbing
Home Depot  and Lowe’s have your DIY plumbing needs.

What is in Plumbing

For plumbing parts, tools, faucets, etc. I recommend Home Depot, and Lowes.  There are over 4600 locations in the US and Canada between these two home improvement goliaths.

Click here to shop the Home Depot

Both companies also allow you to shop online, and pick up your items in your local store, or have them shipped directly to you.

If you would rather have a plumber or other contractor help you with your project, Home Depot, and Lowes can assist you with that also.

Click here to shop Lowe’s

Or, you can utilize HomeAdvisor to provide a local licensed,  and bonded contractor to do the work for you.

What is in Plumbing

Thank you for reading, What is in Plumbing.  Feel free to leave your questions, comments, and suggestions below. I will respond to you asap.  Please also fee free to share on social media by using the buttons below.  Good luck with your plumbing projects.  Tom






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6 thoughts on “What is in Plumbing”

  1. Hi, Tom,

    I enjoyed reading your post. Your explanation of the history of plumbing is very interesting.
    I’ve never been a handyman, but I’ve done a few things here and there. It is true there are some things in the house that aren’t that complicated and we could save some bucks fixing them ourselves instead of calling someone in. Of course, there are cases where we will definitely have to call a professional.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. The history of plumbing is actually really fascinating. I have seen some programs talking about the ancient Romans being advanced with that. I didn’t realize that in New York City they actually had indoor plumbing in the earlier half of the 1800’s.

    I wonder how did they prevent cross-contamination between drinking water and other water uses for bathing and waste???

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