Plumbing for Beginners: An Extensive Guide

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Whether you’re an amateur or experienced DIYer, a thorough understanding of plumbing basics will help you tackle common repairs and replacements. Learn about the different types of piping and their functions, as well as basic safety tips.

Household leaks waste a staggering amount of water annually, but you can easily reduce these wastages by knowing where the main water shutoff valve is located. Plus, learn how to spot plumbing problems before they become major emergencies.

Water Supply

In homes, the plumbing system is responsible for bringing fresh water in and getting rid of wastewater. Although plumbing systems can seem complicated, they are actually based on simple laws like gravity and pressure. Knowing what goes on behind the scenes can help you spot problems and make more informed decisions about how to proceed with repairs and installation work.

The water supply line that brings in freshwater to your house or business is usually buried underground. It runs under pressure and usually has a main shut off valve and water meter. The water meter measures how much water is being used and helps with billing.

It is important for people to have access to clean, potable water in order to fulfill their daily needs and live healthy lives. Most cities and towns have public water-supply systems that find, clean and deliver drinking water to people’s houses and businesses. These organizations may be run by city governments, private corporations, or community endeavors.

Water lines in cities and towns are buried in large pipes, called mains, under the streets. A map of these mains would look like the branches of a tree or the pattern of tributaries in a river system. The water from the mains flows to the houses in the area via smaller pipes. Usually, the house has two supply lines; one for cold water and the other for hot water.

The pipes in your home are usually made of copper, PEX or PVC. Other materials such as galvanized iron were used in the past but they are now obsolete due to their corrosive properties. Copper, PEX and PVC are the most durable, easy to install and cost-effective pipes for residential use.

In rural areas, some people get their water from wells that are drilled deep into the ground to reach freshwater. In urban and suburban areas, it is more likely that people will get their water from a municipal water-supply system. These are agencies that find, clean and deliver freshwater to people’s houses, as well as commercial and industrial buildings.

Some countries and states have centralized service providers that cover all or most of the major towns and cities. These companies also provide water to the less-developed parts of the country.

Water Heater

The water heater is a major component of the plumbing system in your home. It’s responsible for heating and distributing your hot water, and it should be serviced regularly to ensure efficiency and longevity. A good plumbing beginner’s guide will recommend a connection with a local licensed plumber that can aid in an emergency or provide ongoing maintenance and upgrades, with an example for great plumbers being the Montgomery plumbers.

A series of large pipes, known as “mains,” are buried underground to supply city water to residential and commercial neighborhoods. From these mains, individual lines branch off to supply homes and businesses with their own water supply. The mains are maintained by the city, and problems with these lines are rare.

Drainage

The drainage portion of the plumbing system carries out two important tasks: carrying away wastewater and disposing of waste. It’s the drainage system that keeps your bathroom and kitchen running smoothly. If your drains start to run slow or smell, then it’s time for a cleaning. This is why it’s good to have a few basic tools on hand so you can do the job yourself, without calling a plumber.

The basics of the drainage system are relatively simple, relying on gravity and water seeking its own level to get the job done. However, there are a few parts that beginners need to know about. These include vents, traps and cleanouts.

Vents are those little pipes you see jutting out of the roof of your house or business. They’re designed to let air in, which helps propel the waste water through the pipe. Without them, your drainage system wouldn’t work.

Traps are curved sections of pipe that sit beneath sinks and inside toilets. They’re often shaped like the letter, “P” or, more formally, a U. They hold standing water and prevent sewage gasses from entering the home, but they can also become clogged with hair and other debris. It’s essential to keep these in good working order, or you could be dealing with a nasty sewer backup!

Cleanouts are the access points in your drainage system that you can use to clear out blockages or inspect the condition of your drains. You can usually find them near your sewer stop valve or in the yard near the drainage system’s exit point to the septic tank or public sewer.

Blocked drains are a common problem that can be easily fixed with the right tools. You can try plunging first, but be sure to use a plunger with a deep cup that can create a strong seal. It’s a good idea to bail out as much water as possible before you start, and don’t be too rough on the plunger so you don’t dislodge the drain cover.

If all else fails, you can always turn to your trusty drain auger (snake) to do the job for you. Feed it down the drain until you hit resistance, then crank it to move through anything causing a blockage. Once it’s clear, test the drain by running some hot water for a few minutes and then putting your plughole back in place.

Sewer

Behind your walls and beneath your floors is a system of pipes that bring in fresh water and disposes of wastewater. This system is the sewer line, and a basic understanding of it can help you better understand your home, as well as prepare for any plumbing emergencies that may arise.

The house sewer line connects the drains in your home to the sewage system or septic tank, or to a public sewer system. The house sewer lines convey anything classified as sewage (human waste and toilet paper) or gray water waste (dishwater, washing paint tools in the sink, etc).

In most areas where people live, homes are connected to public sewer systems. People living in rural areas often have septic systems installed.

There are some things that you should never put down a drain, however. If you flush these items, they can cause blockages or overflows and may even contaminate the water supply in your area. These include non-biodegradable wipes, fats, oils and grease, disposable diapers, sanitary products, cotton balls, and other similar items.

Your wastewater is also taken to the sewage treatment plant for processing and removal of pollutants. This is important because if these pollutants are allowed to enter rivers or other bodies of water, they can poison the fish and other wildlife that people drink and swim in.

Rainwater flows into storm sewers and begins an underground journey to lakes, rivers and streams in your community. When these waters are combined with sewage, it can cause overflows, which may result in contaminated drinking water for people and animals.

During wet weather, it’s common for these overflows to occur in many cities. This is because the combined sewer lines cannot handle all of the excess rainwater and sewage. It is therefore important to protect these lakes, rivers and streams by preventing the flow of household chemicals, cleaners, paints, lawn care products, cleaning solvents and other similar materials into the storm sewers.

A cleanout is a fitting that allows plumbers to access the house sewer line for inspection and maintenance. These are particularly helpful if you ever experience a drain clog or backup. A cleanout should be placed every 50 feet or so, where the line changes direction or makes a 90 degree bend.