How Does Plumbing Work?

Over recent years, house owners and tenants have demonstrated a willingness, indeed a preference, to tackle their own plumbing repairs. As manufacturers responded to these demands by supplying hardware specially designed for them, householders in turn became even more ambitious, stimulating a growing industry aimed directly at the DIY market. Almost every aspect of home plumbing repair and improvement has been catered for with lightweight, attractive fittings which can be plumbed in quickly and confidently with traditional metal or modern plastic pipework. As usual, the need to save money has been the main incentive for the increased interest in DIY plumbing.

how does plumbing work How Does Plumbing Work?

Materials alone are relatively expensive but the price of professional labour constitutes the greater part of any bill you incur, especially if it is necessary to call out a plumber at weekends or at an inconveniently late hour. Furthermore, stopping a leak quickly can save the expense and disappointment of ruined decorations or even the replacement of rotted household timbers. Even if you are insured against plumbing failures, it does not compensate for the disruption caused by major refurbishment. Lastly, there is the cost of water itself. A dripping tap wastes gallons of water a day, and if it’s a hot water tap, there is the additional expense of heating it literally down the drain. The few pence spent on a washer can save you pounds.

Direct and indirect systems
You should familiarize yourself with the plumbing system in your own house so that you can isolate the relevant sections and drain the water during an emergency or prior to repairs and rerouting pipework.

Direct system
In many older properties, mains pressure is supplied to all cold water taps and WCs. Hot water is fed indirectly from the storage cistern via the hot water cylinder. The only advantage with this direct system is that drinking water can be drawn from any cold water tap in the house.

Indirect system
Most homes, and certainly modern houses, are plumbed with an indirect system. Water under mains pressure enters the house through a service pipe and proceeds via the rising main directly to the cold water storage cistern, normally situated in the roof space. A branch pipe from the rising main delivers drinking water to the kitchen sink, and possibly to a garden tap through another pipe. All other cold water taps and appliances are fed indirectly, that is, under gravity pressure only, from the storage cistern. The hot water storage cylinder is also supplied with cold water from the same cistern. There it is heated either indirectly by the central heating system, or by electric immersion heaters, then drawn off from the top of the cylinder to hot water taps in the bathroom, kitchen and some of the bedrooms.

An indirect system provides several advantages to the householder and the water authority. Firstly, there is adequate water stored in the cistern to flush sanitary ware during a temporary mains failure. Also, as the major part of the supply is under relatively low pressure, an indirect system is reasonably quiet. (High mains pressure can cause ‘water hammer’ as the water tries to negotiate tight bends.) As few outlets are connected to the mains, there is less likelihood of impure water being siphoned back into the mains supply-an important consideration with regard to hygiene.

Drainage
Waste water is drained from either system in one of two ways. Up until the late 1940s or 50s, water was drained from baths, sinks and basins into a wastepipe which fed into a trapped gully at ground level. Toilet waste fed separately into a large diameter soil pipe running directly to the underground main drainage network.

A single stack waste system is used on later buildings where all waste drains into a single soil pipe. The only possible exception is the kitchen sink which still drains into a gully.

Rain water always feeds into a separate drain so that the house drainage system will not be flooded in the event of a storm.


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