I am sitting here thinking of all the changes in the construction of houses over the last fifty or so years. Today I will dedicate this article to the plumbers and plumbing in our houses. Ah where would we be without our beloved Plumbers.
Anyway I can remember the first time that I had the privilege of watching a plumber in action it was during the construction of my Uncle Macks house. My Father and I helped him build his house along with My Grandfather. The plumber was doing the underground waste piping in the basement of the house.
I remember that the pipe was cast iron and had a bell on one end the other was straight and the 4 inch pipe was very heavy for a kid like me at the time. He put the pipes together and after he had the proper pitch on the piping he tamped oakum around each of the joints. When he was done with that he started this burner that heated lead, the Plumber put a one pound ingot of lead in the pot, once the lead was liquefied he poured it into every joint. The last operation was to tamp the lead with a special tool to make sure it was tight.
The domestic water lines and heating lines for a hydronic heating system were of copper that were soldered together using lead based solder. Water lines needed L tubing and heating lines M tubing could be used. Each connection had to be cleaned with steel wool until it was shiny and a steel brush is used for the interior connections. A flex is put on the tubing then it is heated with a torch. Solder is applied after the connection is heated properly and it will flow around the joint.
When I built my house the sanitary plumbing could be done with ABS (plastic type piping) The joints are cleaned with a solvent then a glue similar to the glue we used to put together model airplanes when we were kids was used to weld the pipe connections together. The glue is put on both sides of the connections, the pipe connections are slipped together and let set for a couple of minutes. The water and heating lines were installed the same as before with copper tubing.
A few years ago I helped my son build his house. The plumber used PEX tubing instead of copper tubing it is a plastic type tubing that you can run in one piece for domestic water and for heating systems. Brass fittings are used and any connections needed are crimped. It costs 75% less than copper piping and the PEX tubing in can withstand higher pressure than coppers tubing.
So there you have it 50 years of plumbing in 500 words or less. The plumbing system has gone from Caste iron piping for sanitary lines and copper for heating and domestic water lines to ABS piping for sanitary lines and PEX Tubing replacing copper tubing .