Plumbing Installations Simplified

With the vast array of fixtures on the market today, the homeowner is sure to find exactly what they are looking for. But there are standards, and these tend to frustrate owners, looking for something “special” to help make their home stand out. The two main parts of the system are the utility services, which handle the supply of water and discharge of waste, and the interior plumbing system, which distributes water and collects waste.

Utility services

There are two main divisions of the utility services required in modern plumbing systems. They include the supply of fresh water (called “potable water”), and the removal of waste water.

The supply of fresh water comes from two primary service types. If you are located in a local where water lines are installed, then you would install a direct connection to the townships water lines. In rural locations, however, you will need to utilize a well type system. In either case, it is important to run you exterior supply lines at least 4′ below the ground line. This will ensure that the water will not freeze in the pipes during cold weather. Most installations are completed with copper tubing, but more and more homes are opting for the installation of CPVC piping, because its cost of installation is steadily coming down.

To establish a direct connection, the water line is brought out under the foundation wall, and connected to a shut-off, installed by the local providing municipality. Some townships will require the installation of a water meter, to accurately determine the amount of water you utilize, for billing.

Well type systems are simply a hole, dug or drilled into the earth, in which water accumulates. This type of systems requires the use of a water pump to move the water from the bottom of the well, into the house. Inside the house is an automated control, which regulates the pressure of the supplied water. Connected to this system is also a pressure tank, which is designed to hold water under pressure, for immediate use. It is important to note, that the larger the pressure tank, the less amount of pressure differential or “surging”, the supply will have.

Dug wells are not one of the more popular types of systems. Although cheaper to install and operate, they tend to be prone to drying out, and often have higher bacterial levels. They are simply a hole, dug down below the water table, with the bottom filled with about 12″ of crushed stone, and walls of pre-cast, concrete well piping.

Drilled wells are quite a bit more expensive, and require special equipment to install. They are a more constant supply of fresh bacteria free water. They are installed with large drilling equipment, which drills into the ground below the water table by about twenty feet. The hole that is left then has a long steel pipe inserted into it to prevent surface run off and caving in of the uppermost soils.

Waste water is the effluent that is discharged from the sinks, toilets, bathtubs, laundry facilities and other drains located within a home. These types of piping installations are called the “sanitary waste” lines. If you are located in a municipality which offers sewer services, you will probably install a direct connection. In rural areas, where sewer lines are not available, a septic or holding tank is the only option. In either case, a large diameter pipe, usually 4″ to 6″ in diameter, is installed two to four feet below grade, to prevent it from freezing. This pipe runs from the foundation to the septic system or sewer line. Most often, the effluent flows to the waste handling system by gravity, but sometimes a pump may be required, it the waste is expected to run uphill.

Direct connections to municipally supplied sewer lines are relatively simple. The drainpipe is installed to the lot line, which the municipality will usually bring the supplied service up to. This connection is strait forward in that it is installed by digging below the frost line, and sloping the pipe to the connection.

In rural areas, the most common installation is the septic system. What it consists of is a main septic tank, to which the buildings sanitary drain is connected. From this, a network of pipes distributes liquid waste, which is dispersed over a large area into the ground. The main tank acts as to biologically breakdown the solid wastes by the use of heat and bacteria. The piping is installed in two types of systems, a weeping bed or a straight bed. The weeping bead is built from special sands, which act to distribute and hold bacteria and waste water, to further enhance the breakdown process. Straight beds are simply trenches dug in which the weeping tile is laid over a gravel base. In any event, the Ministry of the Environment will tell you which type of septic system to install, and where to install it. Always remember to locate your septic system a fair distance from any wells or water supplies that you may have installed.

Another type of system, utilized in rural areas, is the holding tank. This is the simplest of systems, in that it is just a large tank, to which the sanitary drain is connected, with no outflow. The major drawback to this type of installation is that the tank will be required to be pumped periodically (about once a month), for removal to a certified disposal site. The only advantage to this type of system is its low cost of initial installation. Maintenance fees for pumping can be as high as $800.00 per year.

Interior plumbing services

The interior plumbing services distribute potable water, and collect waste water through a network of piping located within the building. Also in this service are the plumbing fixtures, such as toilets, tubs and sinks.

The piping in the building comes in two main divisions, the supply lines and the drain lines.

The supply lines carry fresh water to all the fixtures located and used in the home. The piping is usually installed with copper tubing, but often CPVC is utilized. This part of the system is pressurized to push the water through the system, usually at about fifty to ninety psi. Typically, the system will include a main shut-off which can turn the water off in the entire home, and is located were the utility line enters the building. It is also a good idea to have the plumber install shut-offs at each fixture, to allow for quick and easy repair, without disabling the entire supply to the building.

The drain lines carry the waste water away from the interior fixtures and drains through larger diameter piping. This piping is typically installed utilizing ABS or black plastic lines, which are glued together. Waste water lines are purely gravity fed, so it is important for plumbers to maintain a certain slope to all the plumbing lines, to ensure waste drains from the piping. At each fixture and drain, a type of water lock is installed (called a “P” trap), which is simply a spot in which water will sit, to prevent the passage of sewer gases into the home. As well, each fixture requires an air vent located on the sewer side of the water traps, to prevent the lines from draining completely due to siphoning action. This venting subsystem draws air from a pipe, which is brought up through the roof of the building. Legislated by the plumbing code, P traps and proper venting is required in all installations.

The interior fixtures are the items that use water for their operation. They include toilets, sinks, tubs, laundry facilities, dishwashers, hot water tanks and sometimes fridges or furnaces. Most fixtures come in a wide variety of colors and textures, although standard in design. A good example of this is the bathtub, which can be purchased in three main sizes, five, five and a half, and six feet long, with a standard depth and width. Because of this type of standardization and requirement for legal approvals prior to sale, homeowners are protected from poor designs or unusable products. All fixtures are connected to drains, and most require both hot and cold connections.

Hot water is supplied by a large tank, which heats and stores sufficient water, for use in the building. This tank is operated by a multitude of energy sources, including electricity, oil, propane or gas, and is located near the service entrance. A common problem with fixtures is the temperature fluctuation caused by use of more than one such fixture at one time. Most noticeable is a showers temperature increase, when a toilet is flushed. There are two means of solving this problem. The first utilizes a pressure-regulating faucet, which automatically balances the pressure from both supply lines. The second is a simpler solution, in which the toilets are connected to the service entrance, prior to connection to any other fixtures, including the hot water heater.