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OVERVIEW

 

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.

 

 

Skill Level & Time to Complete

 
  • Beginner - Depends on your particular project 
  • Intermediate - Depends on your particular project
  • Advanced - Depends on your particular project
  - Always wear gloves and safety glasses when working on pipes. Among other things, metal burrs can cut you, sewer water can be infectious, and hot solder can burn you.
  - Solvents and glues used for plumbing can emit dangerous volatile fumes, so only work in well ventilated areas when using these products.
  - Before doing any plumbing job, always know where the main shut-off for the water supply is; just in case.
  - Plumbing parts, fittings, fixtures, etc. are not as standardized as they are in other industries. Whenever going to buy a new part always try to take the old part with you so that you can be sure you are getting the right thing.



SHOPPING LIST


Materials List
   Your shopping list will depend on your specific plumbing project.
 
Tools List
   Your shopping list will depend on your specific plumbing project.

 

1. 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 needs.
2. 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 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.
3. For the water supply that makes its way 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.
4. 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 seep back up through the pipes and into your home.
5. 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.

 

6. 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.
7. The different systems in your house require different kinds of pipe. Freshwater systems are typically built with copper tubing (a), galvanized pipe (b), CPVC pipe (c) and/or Pex pipe. Generally, copper tubing is most common for interior piping. 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.
8. 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 prefered 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 pipe, and therefore you will not hear the sound of water flowing through it. Galvanized pipe is sometimes used in conjunction with cast iron pipe for vents and smaller drain lines.
9. Plumbers use a variety of specialized tools for sweating copper pipes. These tools include a torch that uses MAPP (Max Power Propylene) gas (a) - a butane torch will work, but will not burn as hot, a tubing cutter (b), specialized wire brushes for cleaning pipe (c), flux (d), which is a type of acid used to clean pipes, and solder (e).
10. For fitting galvanized pipe you will need a pipe cutter (a), which is more heavy duty than a tubing cutter, a pipe threader (b), a reamer (c) for removing the burr on cut pipes, and pipe wrenches (d).

 

11. Typically ABS and CPVC pipes do not require much in the way of specialized tools other than their respective glues for joining the pipes and a handsaw for cutting them. Cast iron pipe however is cut in a very special way. A snapper (a) is wrapped around the pipe and constricted until the two halves of the pipe are snapped (broken) apart. Usually the tool can be rented at home centers and it is worth the effort of doing so as it can be difficult to get an accurate cut with a reciprocating saw.

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