With the increased appreciation of the need for adequate plumbing equipment has come an increase in the variety of styles and types of fixtures available. This has had the unfortunate effect of confusing the public. The impression prevails that a tub is a tub, no matter what the price or by whom installed. The mystery surrounding plumbing has been still further deepened by lack of salesmanship on the part of some general contractors who have given prospective builders the impression that building a home is a complicated operation which no one but an expert can understand.
The truth is that the building of a house need not be a complicated matter and should cause no regret to the owner either in the process of construction or during the years that it is lived in, providing the owner chooses his materials and fixtures carefully and wisely, heeds the advice of experts, and deals only with responsible and established builders.
This advice applies with especial force to the man and woman who are selecting the plumbing fixtures for a home. Could the millions of Americans who in years past have built homes stand before a microphone and give their advice to the prospective builder, it would be unanimously "Buy good plumbing fixtures."
This is the consensus of opinion on plumbing fixtures for three reasons. In the first place, there is a direct relation between plumbing fixtures and health; in the second place, inferior plumbing fixtures are not durable and hence most expensive over a period of years, and last, the good fixture is built for a lifetime of service and retains its beauty and luster indefinitely.
1 Adapted from "Building for Health," American Home, February, 1929.
The relation between plumbing and health has been recognized by over 800 cities and 15 states which have enacted laws and ordinances regulating the manner in which plumbing fixtures shall be installed. Unfortunately, not all of these are enforced. However, the home-owner who deals with a master plumber of established reputation will be safe whether there is a city ordinance or not.
The typical sanitary ordinance outlines the methods by which connections must be made, specifies the installation of waste lines, gives definite rulings on the installation of traps and vents, and indicates how fixtures should be installed.
Thus a sanitary code protects the home-owner against himself as well as against an irresponsible plumber. By specifying the number and manner in which traps and vents shall be connected, the home is protected against sewer gas and against contamination of the water supply.
In this manner, forward-looking cities have done everything in their power to guarantee to home-owners the full benefits from their plumbing equipment and have endeavored to assure them of the minimum cost of upkeep. Unfortunately, cities cannot regulate the quality of fixtures that shall be installed. This is still left to the judgment of the individual building his home. The result is that many who find that the cost of a home is going to exceed their original estimate seek a place to cut costs and often buy plumbing fixtures of inferior quality under the delusion that it is economy.
In plumbing fixtures as in other things, the purchaser gets what he pays for. Cheap plumbing fixtures do not have good enamel. The fixture proper is also of a much cheaper and thinner material. If the purchaser were to compare this cheaper grade of fixture with one of quality, he would soon see the difference in the appearance. These fixtures do not have the snow-white finish that the quality fixture has. They are of a yellow shade with a poor grade of enamel that in time turns to a darker yellow, chips easily and eventually becomes porous. When the enamel surface is in this condition, it is very hard to clean and catches the filth from the waste water, making it an ideal breeding place for dangerous germs. Quality fixtures have a grade of enamel which retains its snow-white finish. They are very easy to clean. These quality fixtures can be purchased with an acid-resisting finish which will not become marred by the acids contained in fruits, vegetables, and medicines.
Various grades of fixture trimmings such as faucets, traps, and waste pipes are on the market. Here again, quality pays. Cheap faucets will give trouble sooner or later. It will not be long before they will not shut tight and this will lead to dripping of water which may discolor the enameled surface of the lavatory, tub, or sink.
If the home-owner tries to save money in buying cheap traps, he will find himself defeated in a few years when the traps begin to corrode and rust away. Cheap traps are made of thin metal that will not long resist corrosion. Doubling the thickness of the metal from which the trap is made will triple or quadruple resistance to corrosion. Furthermore, many cheap traps have joints which are similarly short lived.
A word more should be said on the subject of traps. A trap is a device or pipe bend under the lavatory, sink, or other fixture, with or without enlargement, which retains a sufficient quantity of the water that passes through it to prevent the passage of foul air back through the pipe and into the room. There are many kinds of traps. The S trap, P trap, and drum trap are in most common use.
The water standing in the trap is called a seal. It is effective when the water is deep enough to close the pipe entirely and thus prevent the passage of air from the drainage system back into the house. If it stands lower, space is left above the water for the passage of foul air back through the pipe, and the seal is "broken."
Under no circumstances should a sink, lavatory, bathtub, or laundry tub be installed without a trap. If the trap is omitted, sewer gas will fill the house. While doctors no longer regard sewer gas as the grave menace to health that it was thought to be 25 years ago, still the fact remains that sewer gas is vitiated air and, if breathed continually, will have an injurious effect on health.
Neither is it true, as was formerly believed, that sewer air contains, to a dangerous extent, the germs which cause diphtheria, typhoid, and many intestinal diseases. The chance of direct bacterial infection from the air from drains and sewers is extremely slight. It will, however, slowly and insidiously cause a general languor, which incapacitates for sustained effort. However, as indicated above, if the home-owner has purchased good fixtures he will have good traps, and good traps will not allow sewer gas to get into his house.
Fixtures that have their traps properly vented will also discharge the waste water much faster and quieter than those that are not vented properly. If the joints that connect the piping used in plumbing installation are properly made, the life of the installation will be greatly increased. It is not uncommon to see houses in which the walls of the room below the bathroom have been ruined by a leaky joint. Unquestionably the material used and the workmanship in such installation was not of standard quality.
The home-owner should never be satisfied with anything less than pipes of standard quality purchased from a master plumber of unquestionable reputation. While the bugbear of sewer gas has been largely dispelled by increased scientific knowledge, recent investigations have proved that ground pollution occurs through leaks in soil pipes.
Leaking pipes, whether supply or waste pipes, are common causes for dampness in a house, and dampness is one of the worst possible defects in the home.
Properly-designed fixtures will eliminate another danger: They will not allow the waste water to contaminate the fresh water supply - a serious and deadly menace. The purchase of good plumbing pays big dividends in comfort, convenience, health, and pride of ownership. When fixtures of good quality are bought, the total cost of the plumbing fixtures and installation is only 9.9 per cent of the total cost of the home. The first cost is the last cost. If the fixtures are not wisely bought, however, they will sooner or later break down under the strain of daily use and then there will be the cost and inconvenience of repairs.
Furthermore, the home with the good plumbing fixtures has that greatest of all assets - complete sanitation. The prediction has been made that not many years will pass before purchasers will demand not only a clear legal title to a home, but also a certificate of sanitation - a certificate that will leave no room for doubt that the plumbing equipment will protect the family.