Lead pipe, as a rule, requires less trench work on ground lines than iron pipe, because drilling, even if very poorly aligned, will often suffice to get the pipe in place. There are numerous instances, however, where longer stretches of iron pipe have been placed in drilled holes than would be practicable with lead at the same excavating cost. It is well to remember that any small line of house service in the ground should be placed deeper, so far as immunity from frost alone is concerned, than is necessary for the protection of large pipes in the same locality, because the volume of contents in house pipes is small, the wall surface of the pipe relatively large, and the flow of the water not so regularly maintained.

The action of natural waters on lead has been a matter of wide discussion by able men. The subject of possible contamination of water supply through the agency of lead conduits, is too broad, however, for full consideration here, and will therefore be but briefly touched upon. This trait of lead has been voiced against its use, with more or less effect; but known cases of poisoning from this source have been exceedingly rare. Galvanized-iron pipe charges the water with salts of zinc when the water contains certain impurities; and most other kinds of pipe are also more or less open to objection at times by reason of their injurious effect on the water, the staining of fixtures, etc. Some of the salts of lead formed by the agency of water conveyed through lead supply pipe, are protective. Others, without doubt - fortunately of rare occurrence in actual practice - are corrosive. Sulphate or phosphate of lime, in solution, will part with its acid in passing through lead pipe, the acid combining with a new base (lead) and forming sulphate or phosphate of lead as the case may be. Chloride, sulphate, nitrate, borate, and other compounds of lead, may be similarly formed. These incrust the pipe; and such of them as are practically insoluble in water protect the lead from further attack, thus preserving the quality of the water Carbonate, sulphate, and phosphate of lead, which doubtless form most frequently in lead water pipes, belong to the protective class. Of course, not all the compounds mentioned are encountered in any one source of supply. Chemical compounds designed to produce an insoluble incrustation have sometimes been purposely placed in solution, and allowed to stand in systems of lead supply pipe where it was known that the water to be commonly used would otherwise be dangerously corrosive. In view of the possibility of such precautionary measures, the deleterious effect of lead on many water supplies, and the consequent menace to health if lead were used indiscriminately, could hardly alone to any appreciable extent result in the substitution of pipe of other material.

Lead has been thus dwelt upon at the outset, because the industry of plumbing itself derived its name from this metal (Plumbum, Latin for "lead"). A discussion sufficient to define broadly the present and past status of the metal in the plumbing business, is certainly apropos in this connection. To many persons, the term "Plumbing" suggests lead and lead work generally, without regard to its distinctive forms, some of which are quite foreign to the ordinary trade meaning. To those acquainted with the building practices of Europe, visions of lead-covered roofs and spires, rainwater heads, etc., in addition to manifold other uses of the metal not common in America, may come to view in the mind's eye when "plumbing" is mentioned. To American plumbers of the past generation, "plumbing" suggested stacks of hand-made lead soil and waste pipe; hand-made lead traps; lead "safe" pans cumbersomely boxed-in under fixtures; ridiculously small lead ventilation pipes; lead drip-trays; lead supply pipes (sometimes also hand-made); all "wiped" joints and seams; and blocks, flanges, braces, boards, and boxes galore, jutting out in profusion, for supports, covering, etc.

In reality, we in America have now but little of what the name "plumbing" would lead the uninitiated to expect. Stacks of plain or galvanized wrought-iron pipe, or of plain, tarred, or galvanized cast-iron pipe, of weight to suit the height of building and to serve as main soil, waste, and ventilation pipes, with sundry lead bends and ends for fixture connections - these, with galvanized wrought-iron or brass pipes for supply, constitute the "roughing-in" stage of a job of plumbing; while painted or bronzed main lines exposed to view, galvanized-iron and nickel-plated brass pipe, with fixtures, partitions, etc., make up a view of the finished work, conveying little idea of the functions and importance of the unseen portions. Finished work in an unpretentious dwelling or storehouse, when properly charted, is fairly easy for even the house-man to understand. In large apartment and office buildings, department stores, etc., however, the plumbing, ventilating, gasfitting, heating, and automatic sprinkler pipes and electric conduits, make, in any but the finished state, a maze of pipe beyond the understanding of any except engineers well versed in those lines of work. In the completed work, the details are concealed. The toilet rooms present an orderly perspective of closets, lavatories, or other fixtures, as the case may be, with simple connections according with the customary finish, kind, or purpose of the pipe.

This apparent harmony, proportion, and simplicity in the result, coupled with a memory of sundry glimpses of a confusion of pipes in the rough state, has, it is to be regretted, propagated in many minds, a sense of false security regarding plumbing, based on the assumption of the plumber's evident ability to produce order and perfect service out of what in the "roughing-in" stage looked chaotic to a hopeless degree. The bulk of plumbing work, however, is not of the "skyscraper" class, nor is it handled by the same type of skill and superintendence. Any feeling of confidence or sense of security on the part of the public, is treacherous if based on the assumption that only by a degree of skill in direct proportion to the size of the job can satisfactory plumbing service be provided in residential and other small buildings. There is evidence of a somewhat indifferent state of the public mind regarding the plumber and his work, induced by the reasons stated and also by lack of due consideration and appreciation of conditions wrought by progress in other trades.