By E.W. BOWDITCH, C.E.
I am unable to tell you what is generally considered the best practice, for I am not sure there are any definitely established rules; therefore I can only explain my ways of doing such work, which, though I try to make as complete and at the same time as simple as possible, I know to be far from perfect.
Plumbing and drainage work has grown up unconsciously with my landscape gardening, and not finding any texts or practice that seemed wholly satisfactory, I have been forced to devise new arrangements from time to time, according to the requirements of the case in hand.
To give all the details of house plumbing this evening, or any one evening, would be impossible, for lack of time, and not worth while even if there was time, as much of it would prove matter of little or no interest. I will confine my remarks, therefore, to certain elements of the work where my practice differs, I believe, essentially from that of most engineers, and where perhaps my experience, if of no assistance to other members of the Society, may excite their friendly criticism in such a way as to help me.
There are two kinds of country places that I am liable to be called upon to prescribe for:
First. A new place where nothing has been arranged.
Second. An old place where the occupants have been troubled either by their outside arrangements or by fixtures or pipes within.
Under the first head let us suppose a small tract of perhaps two acres of land in some inland town, where the family intends to live but six months in the year, though they are liable to reside there the whole twelve.
There are no sewers and no public water. The soil is a stiff, retentive clay, rather wet in spring. The desire is expressed to have plumbing and drainage that shall be as inexpensive as possible, but that shall be entirely safe.
In considering the arrangements inside the house, I find myself in the same predicament as the French surgeon, a specialist upon setting the bones of the arm, who, when a patient was brought him with his right arm broke, expressed his sorrow at being unable to be of assistance, as his specialty was the left arm.
I have endeavored to post myself thoroughly upon house plumbing, but confess to only knowing partially about the wastes; the supplies I do not feel competent to pass upon.
One class of annoyance caused by plumbing, perhaps the principal one, is due to the soil pipe or some of its fittings.
Second quality of iron, poor hanging, insufficient calking, careless mechanics, putty, cement, rag, or paper joints - all these and a dozen other things are liable to be sources of trouble. Subordinate wastes are apt to be annoying, occasionally, too, to a less extent.
The mechanical work can always be superintended, and within certain limits may be made secure and tight; not so easy, however, with the materials.
There is seldom a valid excuse for ever making waste pipes, within a building, of anything but metal.
Earthen tile is frequently used; also, to a limited extent, brick, stone, and wood; twice I have found canvas - all these, however, are inferior, and should never be accepted or specified. The writer believes that at the present time, hereabouts, lead and iron are more used for wastes than any other materials, and are found the most satisfactory on the whole.
One or two arrangements, relative to the wastes, I have made use of that are not, so far as known, in general use, and that may not be the best, though they have served me many good turns, and I have not succeeded in devising any better.
Soil pipe, as it is usually put in, is apt to be of cast iron, four inches in diameter, and is known in the market as "heavy" or "extra heavy." For some years the tar-coated or black enameled pipe has been the favorite, as being the more reliable, the writer in common with others making use of the same freely, until one day a cracked elbow, tar coated, was detected. Since that time plain, untarred pipe has been specified, and subjected to the so-called kerosene test, which consists of swabbing out each pipe with kerosene or oil and then allowing it to stand for a few hours. A moment's thought will convince any one that when a pipe is asphalted or tar coated it is very difficult to detect either sand holes or small cracks, and the difficulty of proper calking is increased, as lead does not cling so well to the tar as to plain iron.
At present, the kerosene test, so far as the writer is concerned, is a misnomer, because raw linseed oil is used exclusively as giving more satisfactory results, and being less troublesome to apply.
I have here a length of the ordinary "heavy 4" commercial soil pipe, plain, and selected at random. Yesterday noon I had it oiled at my office, in order to be ready for to-night, and you see, by the chalk marks I have made, just where the leaks were and their area. I may say here that a sound pipe of this caliber and standard weight is the exception rather than the rule, and it was selected for this experiment merely to try and show the reaction a little better than the heavier pipe might.
Experiments of this nature I have carried along for the past two years, and I am glad to say that, since I began, the quality of the soil pipe furnished by the dealers for my work seems appreciably better than at first. Whether the poorer pipe is still made and sold to other customers I have no means of knowing; probably it is, however.
A large quantity of the pipe is now being tested at my suggestion by the Superintendent of Construction of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, at Baltimore. I have not yet heard the results from him, but doubtless they will be interesting. A brief summary of the results may be of some interest.
The different makers of soil pipe generally used by plumbers hereabouts are:
Mott & Company, Abendroth, Blakslee, Dighton, Phillips & Weeden, and Bartlett, Hayward & Co.