August is upon us and with that the Back-to-School season. If you went camping this summer, you already know what a magnificent invention indoor plumbing has been. In the spirit of learning, it’s important to understand how your home’s complex plumbing system works and how to identify the various basic parts.

In sum, your house’s plumbing system is a network of water supply pipes, drain pipes, vent pipes, and fixtures. They’re pretty self-explanatory. Supply pipes deliver water to the fixtures in your home (sinks, faucets, tubs) and the drain-waste-vent (DWV) pipes carry wastewater away.

Okay, so those are the basic principles. Let’s get more specific…

What Do All These Pipes Do?

Essentially, the water supply system involves bringing in water from the street and distributing it through your home through water pipes. The water pipe system includes pipes, fittings, service valves, and faucets. These parts are usually made of plastic, copper, or galvanized iron.

Remember: Plumbing follows the principles of gravity and pressure. Understanding how this works can spare you a headache, time, and money!

  • Supply System: As clean water comes in through the supply pipes, it enters your home at a pressure of 50 to 60 psi. This is enough pressure to move around bends and even make it upstairs.
  • Stop Valves: Make sure all your fixtures have individual stop valves. That way, you don’t have to shut off the water to your entire home to prevent flooding or water damage in a specific area.
  • Drainpipes: Wastewater is pulled by gravity through the drain pipes, and the air in the vents on your roof allows them to flow smoothly.
  • Traps: The curved, S-shaped part of the pipe is the trap. When water flows from the sink, it has enough force to exit the drainpipe, yet a little water stays behind to prevent sewage gases from rising up into your home.
  • Fixtures: Fixtures are anything that is connected to a segregated supply and drainage system. Therefore, toilets, sinks, tubs, washing machines, and even an outside faucet is a fixture.

Water from the supply pipes automatically comes in cold. For hot water, one pipe carries the municipal water through a water heater, which then carries it to all your fixtures where hot water is used.

IMPORTANT! Learn where your main water shutoff valve is located. It is typically located close to the water meter outside your home that registers how much water is coming in through the supply lines. If pipe cracks or bursts in your home, quickly shut off the main valve to prevent traumatic flooding.

What’s Under My Kitchen Sink?

If looking under the kitchen sink at the piping makes you feel overwhelmed, learning how it works can give you peace of mind (and hopefully keep money in your pocket!)

Like the rest of your home, a kitchen’s plumbing is fairly standard – hot and cold supply lines, and a waste line for the sinks. The dishwasher, ice maker, and fridge are generally connected to your sink’s plumbing. In addition, kitchens with a gas range have a gas supply pipe.

Due to the type and amount of waste going down kitchen sinks (oil, solid foods), kitchen pipes tend to have a strainer fitted into a strainer body that’s then inserted and sealed into the sink. If the kitchen has a garbage disposal, it is also mounted directly to a different strainer body.

Beneath the sink, you’ll find:

  • Rubber gasket.
  • The metal washer.
  • A large locknut or retainer that tightens the body to the sink.
  • The sink trap.

If your sink is clogged or if you dropped something down the drain, it can oftentimes be found in the trap. Place a bucket underneath the sink, unscrew the trap, and clean out the clog or retrieve your item.

Where Does All This Dirty Water Drain To?

After washing your hands, taking a shower, or doing the laundry, dirty water’s gotta go somewhere. This is where the DWV system comes in. As we mentioned before, the drainage system uses ‘gravity,’ unlike the supply system that uses ‘pressure.’ Most drainage pipes are all angled downward so that waste matter can travel to the sewage treatment facilities or septic tanks.

Another very important part of plumbing, and less commonly known, is the vent system. The vents sticking out of the roof of your house are to allow air to enter the drainpipes and increase the flow of water. Without these vents, the water will not flow properly and would need to be siphoned out.

The primary component of the drainage system is the traps.

  • Toilets are self-trapped and don’t require any additional traps at the drain.
  • Kitchen Sinks have grease traps to prevent grease from building up.
  • Bathtubs have what are called ‘drum traps’ – which prevent sewer gas from coming back up but also collect hair and dirt to avoid clogging.

Most modern traps have clean-out plugs for ease of cleaning.

Now that you understand the basics of the supply and drainage systems, you should be able to take care of simple fixes like a clogged sink or leak from a loosened lock.

If you feel like the water pressure in your home has changed, or if your sinks are not draining properly, call Affordable Plumbing, Rooter and Water Heaters today to have a licensed technician come take a look.

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