Decoding Drain Design
Plumbing pipes and fittings in modern bathrooms are predominantly made from some type of plastic material along with supply lines made of copper but it was not always so. If your home was made before 1950, you more than likely have cast-iron drainpipes with galvanized steel water supply pipe lines that sometimes even included branch drain lines too.
The only problem with this material was that even though galvanized pipe is extremely strong, its shelf life was only about fifty years due to the fact that the joints frequently rusted and leaked and the build up of minerals in the pipes reduced water flow and occasionally even clogged the channel.
An alternative to galvanized steel pipe is cast iron piping. Though used chiefly for drain lines and vents, many trades people favour it over plastic pipes because it is heavy and strong.
This has the effect of reducing the sound of water running through the pipes, whereas plastic tubing has an inclination of augmenting the rushing water sound. The other proof using cast iron is that it lasts a life time, some cast iron pipes have been know to last over a hundred years.
Copper piping is a little more expensive than plastic pipes and is ideal for water supply lines because it resists rusting and lasts a very long time. Copper lines comes in three different thicknesses M, L, and K. M is used in residential plumbing while L and K has outdoor applications.
You can even get flexible copper tubing to get around those tight spots. Just be sure not to kink the line or you will have to replace it.
Connecting Your Water Lines
For those unfamiliar with plumbing terminology, a fitting is any type of joint that joins pipes together whether it is at a turn (called an elbow) or a coupling of one or more pipes. Tee’s and Y’s are used when the pipe connects or branches off to more than one other pipe.
Plastic pipe is by far the choice of modern professional plumbers for many reasons. Plastic pipe is light weight, easy to cut and work with and is economical as well. Joints are simply glued together so you don’t need any welding equipment or expertise.
There are, for the most part, four different types of plastic tubing used by installers in residential plumbing: ABS, PVC, CPVC and PE. Black ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) was one of the early versions of plastic used in residential homes but it soon grew out of favour because it had a limited shelf life.
The most common and substantially better material is PVC (which stands for: polyvinyl chloride) drain pipes. As we all know, modern plastic is strong and practically lasts forever, which makes it ideal for drain pipes.
Especially when you consider it is almost entirely resistant to most chemicals. The only drawback to using PVC is extreme heat. Try not to use PVC for hot water supply lines because the heat cases the material to shrink over time which could potentially weaken the joints.
CPVC on the other hand is resistant to heat and can be used for both hot and cold supply lines in your bathroom.
With advances in technology, plumbers now have a new flexible and heat resistant material called PEX (cross linked polyethylene) which has many applications in the plumbing industry due to its flexibility, versatility and strength.
While you may never have to install a new fixture yourself it’s always a good idea to know what is behind your bathroom walls. Who knows, one day you may actually get the urge to do some plumbing; at least now you will know what your options are for plumbing materials and plumbing design.
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