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What You Need To Know About Your Home’s Plumbing System

A Complete Plumbing Guide From the Expert Plumbers at Service Professor

Cartoon person wearing Service Professor uniform with white coat over it and blue mortar board graduation cap while smiling and holding a brown book in one hand and a pointer stick in the other. White background.There are many systems that power a home, including your plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems. With even one system not working properly, things are likely to go wrong. The plumbing system is among the most vital systems in every house.

Homeowners need to understand more about plumbing systems so they can be ready in case of failures. When you understand the basics, it will be easy to correct the system using DIY projects.

Even if it’s something you can’t handle, the explanation given to professional plumbers will make more sense. They’ll then know how to equip themselves when coming to your home.

There is much to understand about the plumbing system. The pipes, valves, and associated components run in hidden places. Resolving simple issues and communicating with the plumbers may not be effective if you don’t understand several layers deeper into the world of plumbing.

There Are Two Main Types of Plumbing Systems in Most Homes

There are typically two systems that make up the entire plumbing system. These are associated with a water or gas supply. They aren’t as complicated as they might seem — it’s all just a matter of what’s coming in and the waste to be taken out.

One of the systems brings in clean water for home use. The other is about the drains that take away the unclean water. The two are designed in such a way that there’s no intersection. If there was contact, there could be a hygiene crisis.

Potable Water Systems

Potable basically means anything drinkable. We all need fresh water for consumption and to run daily home chores. The water inflow is controlled under the potable plumbing system.

There are many appliances and fixtures that require a water supply. It could be the sinks in the bathrooms or the kitchen, dishwashers, bathtubs, washing machines, showers, toilets, faucets, and many other areas where running water is required.

It doesn’t matter what the source of water is, the setting of the clean water system is almost the same in all homes. Some people in rural areas get their water from wells. Those in urban areas depend on the water treatment centers for water supply. But the common ground is that this type of plumbing system usually has these components;

Your Plumbing Pipes

In most modern homes, there’s a main pipe that directs water from the source and into your home. The pipe then has to go through a shut-off valve. A system of many other pipes also exists in the entire house where fresh water is needed. You can see some of the pipes running in your house, especially in the basement.

Most pipes aren’t placed where you can see. They’re plumbed in floors and ceilings and behind walls. Any time water is running, the water has to go through this complicated system of pipes to eventually show up at the faucet or any other fixture.

Main Shut-Off Valves

When a main shut-off valve is shut, no water is supplied to the entire potable plumbing system. It helps keep things under control. Other valves won’t have any role to play when the main valve is off. When this valve is on, then it’s for the other individual valves to do the controlling.

Shut-off valves come into play when there’s the need for maintenance, repairs, or even installation of a new plumbing system.

The shut-off valve holds the water from the supply back, giving room for plumbers or homeowners to carry out major repairs. Working when the water is running poses a risk of soaking yourself or the area you’re working on.

Water Heaters

In the potable water system, there are two sub-branches. Water can come directly from the appliances and through fixtures. This uninterrupted water is cold water and is used in the kitchen, toilet, and sinks.

When there’s a need for hot water, this calls for a water heating system. The heater has to be attached to the plumbing system. Washing machines, showers, and some sinks are connected to the heated water line.

Plumbing Fittings

At the end of the pipes are plumbing fittings. It could be the faucets, showerheads, knobs, bathtubs, or any other that controls the outflow of water. It’s through these fittings that water comes out.

Drainage Systems

We should understand that water isn’t something that gets depleted. It only changes from one form to another. When it comes to the plumbing system, water is basically meant for consumption or cleaning. Water in the kitchen is used for consumption and washing dishes. In the bathroom, water is for showering.

In the laundry, it’s about cleaning. In the water closet, water is there to carry away fecal waste. In all these circumstances, only new materials are introduced into the water, making it unsuitable for further human use. Such water has to be taken out of the house for more clean water to flow in. That’s where the drainage system comes in.

The basic objective of the plumbing system is to keep homes hygienic. The drainage system contributes a great deal to that. The system of pipes collects all used water together with the solid waste in it and carries it to the septic systems and sewer lines. What follows is a treatment of the unclean material, which can be toxic. Sewer systems can be owned by individuals or city management.

All these systems are there to help with sanitation. Wastewater can be used for different purposes. This water is rich in fertilizer. Some of the recycled water can also be re-introduced into the freshwater system and the cycle continues.

Drain Pipes

It wouldn’t make sense to have pipes supplying water to a house and not have others that take the residue out of the house. Take note that drain pipes aren’t the same as potable water pipes. They adopt a different design to enable them to serve their purpose accordingly.

They’re usually wider to accommodate the solid waste materials that may go down with the dirty water. They also don’t rely on pressure. Instead, they depend on gravity. This starts at the moment wastewater leaves the plumbing fixtures all the way to the underground systems.

Gravity flow goes all the way to the city collection where treatment takes place.

Drain Traps

The objective of the drainage system is to take away the waste water and get rid of the bad odor of the sewers. You can easily understand what goes down the drain. If there was no barrier to the drain pipes, the bad odor from the sewer treatment point would flow back to every home outlet, causing chaos.

Drain traps are necessary for drainage systems. Otherwise, the world could be a mess. It’s a simple system where water stands in the way of bad odors, keeping them in the sewer lines and never letting them get into the house.

Drain Vents

When it comes to drain pip ventilation, there’s no taking risks. The drainage pipes should be served by vents that release unwanted gases into the air. Drain vents are usually long pipes that go to the roof, keeping the entire plumbing system well-ventilated.

Regular maintenance should be done to make sure the drain vent remains fully functional to prevent backflow and slow drains. Debris inside the vent pipes can lead to these.

Diagram of a home plumbing system and how it connects to the town water and sewer lines.

Common Plumbing Issues That Professional Plumbers Can Address

Plumbing problems are often emergencies. You can’t tolerate clean water going to waste. The bill is still counting. At the same time, the great mess that can come with drainage system failures can’t be tolerated.

Our plumbers in Grand Rapids know that plumbing system repairs are a matter of urgency. Plumbing systems, like all other systems, are vulnerable to failures. When they do fail, there are many inconveniences.

The most unfortunate thing is that homeowners often neglect their plumbing systems. They only give them attention when there’s an alarming situation. It’s this neglect that often leads to more plumbing problems. It’s easier to do regular checkups of the plumbing system, detect developing problems, and easily fix them in advance. On the contrary, fixing emergencies is hectic and more expensive.

Frozen Pipes

When water freezes, it expands. The same is true for water that’s in an uninsulated plumbing pipe. In areas where the winter gets extreme, pipes are forced to undergo harsh environments. When it’s super cold on the outside, water in the pipes freezes, causing it to expand.

The flow of water into the houses stops and the pressure on the pipes can get enormous to the point that the pipes split. If you live in a cold climate, you need to take preventative precautions. Pipe insulation in Michigan shouldn’t be debatable. It should be a must.

If it’s too late for you to do this, then you can apply thawing tactics. Be careful not to introduce direct heat on pipes as it can be even worse. If you’re not sure what to do, contact an emergency plumber as soon as possible.

Burst Pipes

Pipes supplying fresh water are usually narrow. This is to allow pressure to do what it does best; force water through the pipes to whatever areas it’s required.

When pipes burst, it can be messy, causing a lot of damage to items in the house. There can also be a loss of water, meaning no value for money. At the end of the day, you’ll have to pay for that water.

To control this situation, you need to make use of the shut-off valve. Turn off the water supply to prevent further damage. Take the next step of contacting the plumber. The expert will restore things to normality and diagnose the system to detect where there could be the risk of further bursts.

Blocked Drains

Drains play a critical role in carrying away unwanted materials. When there’s resistance to this, all the unwanted materials force their way to stick around. That means a risk of an unhygienic and smelly environment.

In mild cases, homeowners don’t have a problem. There are plungers that can help unblock the toilets and other blocked drains. If these tools don’t work, you need to go a step further to call a plumber as fast as possible.

Gas Leaks

Gas systems fall under plumbing systems. Gases can be super dangerous. They can trigger fires that consume anything standing in their way. This isn’t a thing to joke with. If you detect a gas leak, take immediate steps. Life is more important than anything else.

You need to ensure that all residents are out of the house before you go to the next step. Switch off the main gas valves as well. You can then contact the emergency plumber as soon as possible.

Water Heater Defects

Water heaters are a different system that requires either power or fuel. In most cases, water still flows throw the pipes but the electrical bit of it usually develops problems. The water temperature may not be as desired.

Sometimes, there’s no hot water at all. Other times, hot water comes out initially and then goes away. Such frustrations need to be addressed by a professional plumber who can handle such defects.

Leaking Faucets & Fixtures

Inefficiencies in any part of the plumbing system can’t be tolerated. They lead to inconveniences or loss of water. A faucet that’s not functioning needs to be checked. These are just a few of the defects commonly experienced by homeowners. The list is long. It’s only wise to mend these defects as fast as possible.

Routine Plumbing Maintenance You Can Do

Plumbing systems aren’t expected to last forever. There are steps homeowners can take to increase the life span of their plumbing systems. It’s all about maintenance to ensure the free flow of either freshwater or unclean water.

Here are some ways to take care of your plumbing system.

  • Drain cleaning: If you notice the sluggish flow of the drains, then you should know clogging is about to happen. Drain cleaning can easily help deal with that in advance. Regular drain cleaning will keep resistance inside the drains at bay. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or hectic endeavor. It can be as simple as using hot water to melt the grease down the system or using simple vinegar. Vinegar is efficient for cleaning drains. Don’t be tempted to use exaggerated chemicals that may harm your system.
  • Cleaning the water heater system: When there’s less care for the water heater system, inefficiencies start developing. Make sure the tanks are drained at least once a year. Watch out for rust, flukes, and discolorations that may suggest rusting. The gas system also needs to be checked. If you get a yellow color instead of blue, the jets need cleaning.
  • Vigilance on leaks: Plumbing systems pass in hidden places. These are places where, even if defects to the system exist, it might take years before they come to your attention. Don’t risk damages to your house or other properties in the name of plumbing defects. Water leaks, for example, can result in mold growth and stains. If you notice such signs, take further action. Shut all faucets and see if the meter is still counting pennies.

Serious damages can result from neglect of the plumbing system. Take action in the early stages when you have time, before the problem becomes uncontrollable. Taking prompt action is the way to go.

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