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Thoroughly understanding the building systems in a home is a tremendous advantage for every homeowner. Homeowners are aware of the care of roofing systems, foundation systems, and HVAC systems. This article is designed to give homeowners a better understanding of a home’s plumbing system and how to hire a plumbing contractor.
Most calls to a plumbing contractor result from emergency problems—a leak or clogged pipe is often the culprit. Neither leaks nor clogs happen by overnight surprise, so let’s examine the plumbing system to understand how these problems arise. First, your home’s plumbing system is comprised of two subsystems–a supply system and a drain system. Your family is usually interacting with the water where these parts join.
Supply System Details
- In the U.S., water utilities must meet exacting standards for water to ensure water safety. However, water is almost always locally sourced. That means the water supplied to your home may also carry an acceptable level of the minerals found in the available local water supply. This is important information to know. Water purification removes the vast quantities of local minerals, but there may be enough residual to affect taste, odor, and color. Often you will see mineral deposits in toilet bowls and on faucet screens. The residue is also building up in the pipes of the supply system.
- Age and use lead to gentle wear on your supply system. Parts that wear first experience movement, so expect to replace faucets every 12 to 15 years. The hot water heater also wears and will need to be replaced because of two water source problems. The mineral content in the water leads to corrosion and deposits actually settle out at the bottom of the tank, covering the heating elements. The mineral content of local water impacts how often water heaters must be replaced, but the range is between 12 and 20 years.
- Few people give it much thought, but supply system pipes also age and wear out. For most pipe materials, the wear expectancy is long—typically 40 to 100 years. Tables are available online; expect some variations. Two important factors are mineral content and movement. While water is moving, the minerals tend to flow with the water. But when the water is still, the minerals distill from the water and create deposits inside the pipes. These deposits can build and eventually clog pipes. Movement happens when pipes expand and contract with the water temperature. The movement is not much, but leaks happen more frequently with the hot-water supply compared to the cold-water supply.1
Drain System Details
- The mineral content in the water supply has less impact on the drain system, but the typical family adds many substances to wastewater. In the kitchen, we add fats, oils, soap, and food items. In the bathrooms, we add human waste, hair, soap, and other hygiene products. Many of these substances coat drain walls and we must take steps to remove them before they clog the drain pipes. Responsibility for the sewer system may extend outdoors. It is not unusual for tree or shrub roots to find a way inside the drain line; the resulting clog can back sewage inside the home. Wastewater contains many hazardous substances, so take care of your drain system.
- Age and gentle wear also affect the drainage system. Toilets, sinks, and drain structures have long usefulness expectancies but will need to be changed occasionally. Toilet flapper and flushing mechanisms may need to be changed as often as every 5 years.
- As with supply system pipes, time and use also impact the materials used for the drain system. The wear expectancy for drainpipe material is also long, but some poor-quality materials are available on the market. Two variable factors impact the longevity of drainpipes—movement, and movement. Many drains are connected to appliances that move, such as garbage disposals and both clothing and dishwashing machines. The physical movements can loosen joints or create stress fractures. Another form of movement includes devices used to remove substances coating pipe walls or to remove clogs.
Indications that professional help is needed include:
- Clogged drainpipes
- Leaks of any type. Water can be very destructive very quickly.
- Low pressure
- Odd or unusual smells, especially from the supply of water
- Odd or unusual taste from the supply water
- Discoloration of the supply of water
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