Plumbing follows the basic laws of nature gravity, pressure, water seeking its own level. Knowing this, you can understand its “mysteries” and make dozens of fixes to your home’s plumbing system. You can save yourself time, trouble, and money.
The plumbing system in your home is designed to direct fresh water and wastewater to where you want them to go, without incident. You want wastewater to leave your home down a drain instead of overflowing into your home, and you want fresh water to come out of a spout rather than leaking somewhere within the walls. The plumbing trade has adopted a number of basic strategies and conventions to keep water controlled and go where we want it. It is a good idea to understand how your plumbing system works before tackling any plumbing project.
INDOOR WATER SUPPLY:
Water enters your house via the water main. It goes through the water meter (a), and then possibly through a regulator to limit the pressure (b). (Not all systems need to use regulators.) Typically, the water supply is then split with one side going to your hot water tank (c), and the other to supply your cold water new.
OUTDOOR WATER SUPPLY:
Sometimes, before the water supply splits off to the hot water heater there will be a split between the indoor and outside water supply. The indoor supply is then routed through a water softener or filter (a), and the outdoor supply goes to supply sprinklers, spigots and whatever else that does not require filtered water.
MAIN SUPPLY LINES
For the water supply that runs through the house, the main supply lines are typically 1 to 3/4 inch in diameter, and lines that branch off to individual fixtures are I/2 inch in diameter.
Wastewater exits the house through the wastewater system. The first step in this system is the trap at each fixture. A trap is designed to retain a small amount of water so that sewer gas cannot come up through the pipes and enter into your home.
WASTE WATER VACCUM:
Once water has flowed through the trap, wastewater will pass through a “T” with one branch of the “T” going up and the other going down. The branch that goes up will make its way up through the roof to let in air to compensate for any vacuum that the water going down the pipe creates. Think of what happens when you hold your finger over the end of a straw that is full of water, when you release your finger the vacuum is broken and the water flows out.
WASTE WATER CLEAN OUTS:
As the wastewater flows out and into the main sewer system, the water will pass a number of clean-outs. These clean-outs typically consist of a type of “T” with the stem of the “T” at a 45-degree angle (called a sanitary “T”). There is a cap that covers the stem. The purpose of these clean-outs is to provide access for drain cleaning equipment if there is a clog in the wastewater system.
FRESH WATER PIPING:
The different systems in your house require different kinds of pipe. Freshwater systems are typically built with copper tubing (a), galvanized pipe (b), C and/or PVC pipe (c) and/or Pex pipe . Generally, copper tubing is preferred for interior piping because of its ease of installation. Galvanized pipe is found primarily in older homes. CPVC pipe is not considered to be as dependable as copper or galvanized pipe, and is usually only used for systems that are not under constant pressure, such as sprinkler systems. Pex plumbing is the easiest to use, with no need for soldering.
WASTE WATER PIPING
Wastewater typically travels through ABS pipe (a), cast iron pipe (b), or galvanized pipe (c). CPVC pipe is also used for septic systems and comes in solid and perforated lengths. ABS pipe is the pipe preferred in most new construction because of its low cost and ease of installation. Cast iron pipe, while most often found in older homes, is still used today for more expensive homes because it is quieter than ABS pipes.