people who are used to living in modern, well-equipped houses, know that there is nothing which contributes quite as much comfort and convenience to everyday life as the plumbing. They also know that when anything goes wrong with it they are very greatly inconvenienced. When you consider the fact that almost all household activities depend upon an ample supply of hot and cold water, for washing, shaving, bathing, laundry, household cleaning and cooking, the plumbing system looms very large. When you further consider that over one hundred and eighty gallons of water a day pour out of the faucets or showers or flush-tanks of the average house, the drainage system, which is an integral part of the plumbing, also becomes a very important item. To keep the plumbing system in good repair is not a hard job. The first requirement is a thorough understanding of it. If the householder will devote a few minutes of concentrated attention to the matter, he can readily understand what the plumbing system means, how it works, why it works, and how it can be kept in repair without great cost. It is actually a very simple matter.
All residential plumbing systems are composed of two separate sets of piping. The first is the supply system which starts at the water-main, and which conveys water into the house and distributes it to the various fixtures such as bath-tubs, basins and sinks. The second is the drainage system which takes the used water away from the fixtures and disposes of it. When the supply system supplies and the drainage system drains, you have a plumbing system which functions properly.
The plumbing system of the average house is not quite as complicated as the layman imagines. There is a supply system and a drainage system. If you study them, you will find them simple.
The supply system is always under pressure, unless of course it is shut off. That is the reason why you have such a flood when a pipe bursts. The pressure is necessary, otherwise the water would not raise from the basement or cellar up to the second floor bathrooms. The drainage system is not under pressure, but operates entirely through gravity.
The first thing that the homeowner should know about plumbing is where and how to turn off the water. This is essential knowledge so that immediate action can be taken if a pipe bursts, a faucet jams in an open position, or any other defect becomes apparent. All houses have a control valve on the water main, and as a rule it is on the pipe where the main comes through the basement wall. When this is shut off, all pressure in the pipes throughout the house is relieved, and all water is prevented from coming into the house until it is reopened. Everyone living in the house should know where this valve is, and how to shut it. When it is closed you can repair faucets, flush-tanks and valves without trouble. The valve should not be covered up or buried out of sight behind trunks, screens or tons of coal. When you want to get at it the occasion will undoubtedly be an emergency, so easy access is essential. In a house that has particularly good plumbing, you often find that each of the hot or cold water pipes leading to any of the fixtures has small control valves which enable you to shut off the water to the fixture without interfering with any other fixture. These are known as independent or separate controls and are very helpful, but unfortunately not found in every house.
If they do exist in your plumbing system, you will find them under the basins and sinks, and on the small supply pipe leading to the flush-tanks. The homeowner who wishes to familiarize himself with the plumbing, would do well to play around with the main shut-off valve and the independent valves, and make sure that they are working and that he understands them. When an emergency does arise he will then know what he is doing, and he can tackle the problem like a professional instead of like an amateur.
A good plumbing job will furnish each plumbing fixture with independent control valves, so that repairs can be made without cutting off the water-supply from every part of the house.