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The Basics of Maintaining Your Plumbing

Definitions and Functions

Plumbing, in a nutshell, does two basic, essential things. It brings water into your house or apartment, allowing you to drink, clean and use water for whichever functions you deem necessary. Your plumbing system also takes water you don't want out; water from your shower after you've washed, waste water from your sinks and your toilets, etc.

DWV Systems

The drain-waste-vent system, or DWV, processes all used waste water from your house or apartment and transports it to your septic tank or sewer system. The pipes in the system run to all sinks, toilets, baths, showers and your washing machine. Newer drain-waste-vent systems tend to use plastic PVC piping and older ones usually use cast iron piping sealed with led. One of the major components of the waste drain is the soil stack. A vertical stack of pipes that originates in the floor of your basement, the soil stack is connected to the sewage piping that leads out of your house. The high section of the soil stack is used as ventilation. It leads up, through the roof, and gives the gases of the soil stack a chance to escape while letting air, assisting in the waste water flowing through the drainage. This process is important because a vent that is obstructed will trap dangerous gases and inhibit drainage. Keeping a vent free from obstruction that doesn't end in the attic is essential. Sewage related gas can be disgusting, dangerous or compromise the structural integrity of your home or apartment. Systems without ventilation can remove water from the trap of a sink or fill the sink with water and since traps block the sewer and septic gases, the gases may flow up the stack, causing problems for homeowner or renter.

Water Supply

The other major function of a plumbing system is to bring water in. The water supply of a house or apartment can come from a private well or service pipe connected to the water main of the city or town. Water sources are usually located in basements and crawlspaces. Residences equipped with private wells use pumps to push water up into pressure tanks for storage and when the tank empties, the pump refills it from the well. Residences with city water based supplies that are "live" are connected to water mains and water meters which are usually dividing points between city lines and individually owner lines. Both are constructed with 1/2 inch (or bigger) copper piping that comes in through basements with a shut-off valve so that water can be stopped in case of emergency.

These are the basic structural components of plumbing systems; water going in, from supplies, water going out through sewage systems. Use this information to better understand your own plumbing system and its functions and parameters. As always, do your own research to find out what else you need to know about plumbing systems. Good luck!

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