The bathroom is the heart of the plumbing problem, and it is not necessary to declare that the plumbing is the most important feature of the house, so far as health is concerned. Did we examine an old house (one of even ten years ago) with a view to purchasing or renting, the condition of the plumbing would be a first consideration. If it were not safe and in good order, we should have to make it so, for of course no one who is mentally competent would take any chances on such a menace to the family welfare. And to repair antiquated plumbing is an ungrateful task, while to replace it entirely requires both courage and a willingness to let go of one's money in large wads.
Now, we want to remember that we shall wish to have our plumbing satisfactory, not only when the house is new, but ten years later, when it is not new. To make sure of this, we need first of all to know something of modern methods and equipment. Then we should employ a capable plumber, though he may cost us more than the merely passable sort Finally, we should supplement good workmanship with the best materials. It may be noted that after the supply houses have evolved the best materials, in the sense that the materials are convenient, good to look at, and perfectly sanitary, they add frills and decorations that bring up the cost to any amount we insist upon spending. But we can get what we really require without paying for the frills, if we exhibit tolerable ability in the selection of essentials.
Open plumbing is, of course, the only sort that any self-respecting plumber of these days would consent to put in; if he hints at anything else, we may well be suspicious of him. Not only should the plumbing be where we can see and get at it, but sinks, lavatories, and tubs should have no in-closures that may retain filth or become water-soaked.
Sewer gas is not the only evil to be guarded against, but it is the greatest. It is also the subtlest, for in some of its most deadly forms it is inodorous, and usually does its work before we become conscious of its existence. The poisonous gas is not necessarily generated in the sewer, but may be created anywhere in the pipes that obstructions or uneven surfaces permit filth to accumulate. If, however, the plumbing is modern and of substantial quality to begin with, has stood all the tests, and is accessible and fairly well understood by at least one member of the household, reasonable vigilance will obviate practically all worry about sewer gas.