Residential plumbing encompasses everything that involves pipes and drains found in and around homes. It can range from repairing a pesky drain to installing a water heater.
Arming yourself with basic plumbing knowledge can help you avoid costly and time-consuming repairs down the road. Here are some of the basics of Linden Plumbing:
Residential plumbing involves the pipes that deliver fresh water into your house and carry wastewater away. These pipes create a vital network that is concealed behind walls, floors, and ceilings. The main function of the system is to supply potable water at the right pressure and temperature to all fixtures and appliances in your home. These devices include sinks, showers, dishwashers, washing machines, and toilets. All these should have individual supply shutoff valves so that you can turn off the water to them if necessary. Also, make sure that everyone in the family knows where the main water shutoff valve is located and how to use it.
The water supply lines in your home may be made of PVC, PEX, or copper. The best choice for your home is probably PEX, which is a flexible plastic pipe that can be easily cut to size and joined together with fittings. This is a safe, environmentally friendly option that is also cost-effective. Other options include copper and galvanized steel.
In homes that get their water from the city, the water comes into your house through a large pipe called the main line. This water is pressurized by a series of pumps so that it can travel through the streets and reach each home. In areas where the water supply isn’t public, homes get their freshwater from wells that are connected to the plumbing systems through underground pipes.
In commercial buildings, plumbing systems are typically more complex than in residential settings. This is because they have to accommodate greater usage by many people at once. For example, a restaurant might have multiple sinks, faucets, and toilets, each of which needs its own drainpipe and water heater. The increased demand means that commercial plumbing requires more durable and larger fixtures, as well as more extensive and specialized piping networks.
Drains transport wastewater and sewage out of your home, carrying away the soiled water and preventing lingering odours. The entire network of drain pipes is usually concealed behind walls, under floors, and in the ground. All of your drain lines connect to a single main sewer pipe, which carries waste to the municipal sewer line or your septic tank system. The piping is typically labelled “drain-waste-vent,” or DWV, and includes a curved section known as a trap that holds standing water to prevent waste gas from rising back into your home. The piping also contains vents that stick up through the roof and maintain air pressure within the DWV system. Without this air pressure, noxious gases would rise through the drains and into your living spaces.
In most homes, the drain pipes are made from copper or the plastics polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Some older homes feature iron or galvanized steel piping. Most homeowners choose to have their piping replaced with PVC or ABS, which are durable and resistant to corrosion.
Homeowners tend to take running water for granted, but the underlying plumbing is complicated. All of those sinks, toilets, showers, and outside hoses put a lot of strain on the water pipes, which are under constant stress from varying water volumes and temperatures. These pipes can wear down over time, though most of the time they hold up well enough to last for decades with minimal maintenance.
If your drain pipes do wear down, clog, or rupture, it’s important to have them repaired promptly to minimize damage and prevent future problems. A plumber can snake clogged drains to remove the blockage and restore the flow of water. They can also repair leaks and other faulty components of the drainage system.
Vent pipes work alongside your drain pipes to keep your household plumbing running smoothly. They also prevent foul odours from entering your home by carrying waste gases out of the pipes and away from your building. Plumbing air vents are typically located on the roof, far away from windows and air conditioning systems, to ensure that the fumes are properly dissipated.
Without the proper ventilation system, wastewater would empty from your traps into the rest of your home, creating a dangerous vacuum effect. To avoid this, your drains must be able to connect directly to the vent pipe that leads outdoors. Without this, wastewater and noxious sewer gases will enter your house through your walls and other fixtures. This is why your drainage and venting systems must be working perfectly at all times.
Your drains and sewer lines need fresh air to flow through them, just like your car needs fuel to run. The plumbing vents allow that air into your pipes and prevent unpleasant odours from developing in your home. These are a vital part of your home’s plumbing, and they must be kept clear at all times.
Plumbing air vents can be made from a variety of materials. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is the most common because it’s inexpensive and durable, but it can degrade and clog with tree roots over time. Rigid copper is more expensive but resists corrosion and lasts a long time. ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is another common choice because it can be made into a wide variety of shapes and has good durability. It’s also easy to cut with a tube cutter.
Most residential vents are true vents, which are vertical pipes that attach to your drain lines and go straight out into the roof. You can add re-vents or auxiliary vents to your plumbing for extra coverage in areas where window framing precludes the installation of a true vent pipe. You may also have air admittance valves installed, which are one-way valves that open as your fixture drains to balance negative pressure and draw in outside air. A clogged vent pipe can cause gurgling and sewer gas smells in the house, so it’s important to maintain it regularly.
Water heaters are plumbing appliances that heat incoming cold water to a hot temperature and supply it to faucets, showers, tubs, clothes washers, dishwashers, and other fixtures and appliances. They can be called water heaters, hot water tanks, boilers, geysers (in southern Africa and the Arab world), or calorifiers. Water heaters can be gas, electric, oil, or tankless.
A residential water heating system can be configured in many ways to conserve energy and save money. For example, a re-circulating system keeps hot water flowing continuously throughout the house, so there’s no waiting for hot water at each fixture. However, it requires a pump and a dedicated recirculation line to work properly.
Another way to reduce energy use is to minimize the distance from a fixture to the water heater by using a tankless water heater. It’s not as efficient as a tank-type water heater, but it can save you money on your electricity bills.
If you’re going to install a recirculating or tankless water heater, make sure the piping to and from it is PEX or copper. PVC is not appropriate for either of these types of water heaters because it doesn’t hold up well to the high temperatures and pressures of recirculating systems. PEX is flexible and durable and can be used in both recirculating and non-recirculating systems.
If you have a tank-type water heater, its discharge pipe must be full size and terminate over an approved drain pan or into the venting system. Also, it must be equipped with a temperature and pressure relief valve that’s accessible for inspection, maintenance, and replacement. Regulations on the location and connections of these valves are covered in Chapter 28.
All plumbing fixtures, including sinks and tubs, drain into the house sewer line. The system relies on gravity instead of pressure to rid your home of wastewater. The drain pipes pitch, or angle, downward to a pipe called the vent stack (also called the main waste line), which transports the waste to your city sewer line, a septic tank, or a private sewage system. The vent stack also retains water in a curved section of the pipe (called a drain trap) to prevent sewer gases from entering your home.
A home sewer line is typically 4 inches in diameter. It connects to a cleanout, which is usually located near your property line on your street. A sewer cleanout is where the city pipe ends and your own begins and where you can access the line for maintenance. If you plant trees or shrubs too close to your home sewer lines, roots can grow into the pipes and cause a leak or break.
In some cases, you may suspect a problem with your sewer line if you experience problems with indoor plumbing, like backups in toilets or kitchen and bathroom sinks. In these cases, a licensed residential plumber can handle the repairs inside your home.