Interesting Highlights From the History of Indoor Plumbing

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Systems, Uncategorized

Where in the world do you think the first modern plumbing systems appeared? Perhaps Europe during the Renaissance when ingenious thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci were introducing innovative ideas right and left? Or maybe ancient Roman aqueducts represent the first major step towards flushable toilets and running water?

To find the real answer, you have to go back much farther and visit a different continent. According to archaeological estimates, around 4000 to 3000 BCE, India’s Indus River Valley featured the first water pipes and sewage systems known to humankind.

Today, thousands of years later, many people enjoy the convenience of indoor plumbing every day—and consider it more of a necessity than a luxury. But indoor plumbing made some interesting stops on its way to your home. Below, discover five intriguing stories from the history of indoor plumbing.

1. Bathrooms Fit for a Mummy

Ancient Egyptians built pyramids as tombs for their dead royalty. These elaborate structures had many amenities—including bathroom-like pipes. Specifically, excavators found copper piping in the pyramid for King Suhura at Abusir. Priests likely used these copper pipes to drain water after performing daily rituals.

This early pyramid wasn’t the only one to contain indoor plumbing. Another tomb, built for the body of the god Osiris, contains a huge moat. The moat surrounds a figure of Osiris on his throne and still gets filled with water from the Nile via underground pipes 5,000 years later.

2. Pure Water for the Ancient Mayans

Around 2,000 years ago, the Mayans built the city of Tikal in what is now Guatemala. According to scholarly work done by a team from the University of Cincinnati, the city featured many notable water amenities. They created a system of reservoirs that collected rain and supplied water to the city, which was not near any major waterways.

In addition, many parts of this water collection system contained simple sand-filled filters. The sand cleaned the water and made it safer for human use. Water that didn’t pass through these filters likely aided in agriculture.

3. A Toilet Built for a Queen

Elizabeth I ruled England during a fascinating time in the nation’s history. Her contemporaries included playwright William Shakespeare and adventurer Francis Drake, and she herself accomplished much during her 44-year reign, including the legendary defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The English Renaissance also inspired Elizabeth’s godson John Harrington to invent an early version of the flush toilet, complete with seat, bowl, and water tank. His model used a basic valve to empty the contents of the bowl after use. He installed one at Richmond Palace for Elizabeth to use and one at his own residence.

4. A Toilet Your Nose Can Appreciate

Of course, John Harrington’s rudimentary toilet wasn’t perfect. One major flaw was that the water inside the tank emitted a foul odor. Luckily, Scottish inventor Alexander Cummings devised an ingenious solution to this problem in 1775, paving the way for indoor plumbing to become commonplace.

Cummings created a trap that separated the bowl from the sewage beneath. A small valve would slide open whenever a user emptied the bowl, but then it would slide close and allow some clean, not smelly water to remain in the bowl. The trap’s shape also forced it to hold clean water, and smelly gas could not pass through to stink up the bathroom.

Today’s toilets have similar traps that perform the same function. In fact, most plumbing fixtures use traps to block sewer gas from entering a building.

5. Hot and Cold Water Join Forces

How many times have you gone to wash your hands, only to discover that the water was either too hot or too cold? The same circumstance happened to Alfred Moen in 1937, and it inspired him to create the faucet that releases both hot and cold water.

As a mechanical engineering student, Moen was uniquely qualified to solve this problem. Plus, he recognized that essentially everyone could benefit from such an invention. He designed and built prototypes but struggled to find a manufacturer. Finally, in 1947, the single-handled faucet began to sell for approximately $12 each, and demand for the product quickly rose.

Moen’s faucets are one of the most popular plumbing inventions of the 20th century. According to the Los Angeles Times, around 70% of kitchen faucets sold in the US today are the single-handled variety. And Moen himself continued to invent products that enhance indoor plumbing, including a solution for being shocked by cold water in the shower.

 

When you wash your dishes or use the restroom, you may not think much about how those conveniences became a part of your daily life. But now that you’ve read these interesting stories, you may pause and appreciate the amazing toilet, the streamlined faucet, or the hardworking showerhead. And if you experience problems with any of these fixtures, call Dhamer Plumbing for expert help resolving those issues.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.plumbingsupply.com/pmegypt.html

https://www.copper.org/publications/newsletters/discover/2005/march/article2.html

http://www.johncflood.com/blog/plumbing/history-of-plumbing-timeline

http://www.portapotty.net/plumbing/

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/a-mayan-water-system-with-lessons-for-today/?_r=0

http://articles.latimes.com/2001/apr/20/local/me-53360

Sludge, Gunk, and Grime in the Tub: What You Need to Know About Sewage Backup

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Systems, Plumbing Tips

Your home’s plumbing system is made up of an effectively designed combination of pipes. Each pipe fits perfectly into a set order so your home can receive fresh water when you turn on the tap and remove wastewater with the flick of a handle.

For your home to work properly and efficiently, all of these pipes must function as they were designed to. The pipes that bring water into your home should only ever provide clear, clean water from the spout. And the pipes that remove wastewater should never let water come back into your home.

Sometimes, though, the pipes that lead from your sink to the sewage system don’t work as they should. Sometimes, sewage and water back up through the pipes and reenter your home.

Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about sewage backup and why you should take immediate action if you notice it in your tub, shower, or sinks.

Causes of Sewage Backup

More often than not, you’ll experience a backup for one or more of the following reasons:

Sanitary Main Issues

If the sanitary main for your neighborhood has a block or stops working, you could experience sewage backups in your home. Your city public works office monitors and clears the mains frequently to prevent backups. But when a blockage isn’t detected in time, pressure will build in the main, causing the sewage to backflow. The sewage will then enter your home through the plumbing as the built-up pressure pushes it back.

Tree Root Growth

As trees grow, their roots descend deep into the ground looking for water and nutrients. If the roots come into contact with your pipes, they’ll find a way to break through these fixtures to access the water inside. The roots continue to grow, absorbing water and nutrients from your pipes. Eventually, the roots will become so thick and tangled that they can block your pipes entirely.

Heavy Rainfall

Sometimes, heavy rainfall can cause sewage to back up into your home. If they city’s draining systems can’t withstand the sudden onset of water, the water will find any available drain and use it as an escape hatch.

Additionally, if your home’s drainage system and landscaping don’t drain water away from your home properly, you are more likely to experience backups during a storm.

Signs of Sewage Backup

Even if you know what causes a sewage backup, identifying one can be difficult. Take the following steps to determine if you have a backup in your home:

  • Look for sludge or sediment in your tub, shower, or sinks.
  • Pay attention to foul odors. You’ll typically smell sewage from the pipes in your tub, shower, or sinks.
  • Run your plumbing fixtures. Watch out for water that backs up after you flush your toilet or run water down your sinks.

If you notice any of these signs, contact a plumber as soon as possible. He or she can work with your city’s public works department to determine if the main is blocked or if your sewer line needs rodding from your home to the street.

Effects of Sewage Backup

Because sewage backup contains human waste, exposure to raw sewage can have adverse side effects. If you’re exposed to the bacteria for too long, you could develop health issues.

If you’ve been exposed to sewage backup and you experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, or abdominal pain, visit a health care professional immediately.

Backup Classification

When wastewater backs up into your home, it can be classified into one of two categories. The type of sewage backup that flows into your home determines the kind of action you should take to get rid of it.

Greywater

Greywater is a form of unsanitary, contaminated water that can make humans sick if they consume it. You’ll experience greywater backups if your sink, dishwasher, or washing machine overflows. The water doesn’t contain feces or pathogens, but if left alone for 48 hours, greywater degrades into blackwater as bacteria and pathogens grow in the stagnant water.

Blackwater

Blackwater, on the other hand, is much more toxic to humans. This kind of backup contains feces, urine, and other pathogens that could cause a human to become ill. Blackwater usually backs up from the toilet, but it can also back-flow through your other drain pipes. Additionally, any water in your home that sits stagnant for more than five days is considered blackwater.

Ways to Remedy Sewage Backup

If you ever experience a sewage backup in your home, contact a plumber immediately. Once your plumber arrives, he or she will inspect your home’s drainage system to find the source of the problem. Then, he or she will make the necessary repairs and provide you with tips to prevent a backup in the future.

The Beginner’s Guide to Sump Pumps

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Systems

If you own a home in the Chicago area, you’re no stranger to humidity, rainstorms and snowstorms.

Chicago’s location and weather conditions can make the area susceptible to floods. For instance, in June of 2015, a storm set off tornado sirens across the city and it rained hard enough that the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning.

If you live in the top half of an apartment complex, you don’t need to worry about floods ruining your property. But if you live in a suburban home, complete with one or two stories and a basement, you need some way to deal with potential floods.

Because of this flood risk, most homes in the area come equipped with sump pumps, which keep floodwater out of your basement. Of course, sump pumps only protect your property if they’re well maintained, so read on to learn more about how these units function, how a plumber can help you maintain them, and how often they need to be replaced.

What Are Sump Pumps, and How Do They Work?

Sump pumps are small pieces of equipment that a plumber installs at the deepest part of your home’s basement or in your crawlspace. This miniature pump has one job: to move water that pools beneath your house away from the home’s foundation. When the pump functions correctly, it should prevent water damage to your basement, foundation, and crawlspaces.

Plumbers usually position sump pumps in a sump pit. The water that pools beneath your house runs into the sump pit, and the pump then funnels this water away through a discharge pipe. Usually, the pump directs the water into a dry well or storm drain.

Sump pumps should not funnel into sewage systems as per most municipal codes. The pipes from old homes might still channel into the local sewer system, so if you recently purchased an older home, contact a plumber. He or she can figure out where you sump pump runs and install a new run-off system as needed.

Most homeowners have one of two types of sump pumps:

  • Submersible pumps are self-contained pumps with a waterproof seal around the motor.
  • Pedestal pumps sit on pedestals that elevate them above the water.

Most modern homes already have sump pumps if needed, but a plumber can retrofit your home to fit one if you live in an older house. A plumber can also talk to you about the right type of pump for your home based on factors like its layout and location.

What Are the Most Common Problems My Sump Pump Experiences?

If you experience a problem with your sump pump, one of the following culprits might be to blame:

  • Your sump pump can’t cope with its current load because it’s too old or hasn’t been well maintained.
  • Your sump pump was installed incorrectly.
  • Your sump pump is backed up or clogged.
  • Your sump pump’s operating switch is stuck. If you have this problem, some force has shifted the pump so the switch is jammed, or a piece of debris has jammed the switch.
  • Your sump pump’s pipes have frozen.

The length of time your pump lasts can vary. You want to consider having your plumber check your pump every spring, just in time for the rainy season.  A reliable working pump brings peace of mind.

How Do I Know If My Sump Pump Works?

Because your sump pump shouldn’t have to work as often as your other appliances, you might not know if it’s experiencing any of the problems listed above.

Of course, you don’t want to wait until the middle of a storm to find out if your sump pump works or not. Fortunately, you can identify a few key signs that indicate if it might be failing:

  • You notice mold and mildew around your house, especially in the basement or crawlspaces.
  • You can see mud and debris around your sump pump.
  • You can hear your sump pump’s motor running constantly.
  • Your basement feels unusually humid.

If you can see water pooling in the basement, contact a plumber to fix your sump pump as soon as possible.

Get in Touch With a Plumber

If you think you have a problem with your sump pump, call a plumber who can diagnose the issue and replace or repair the pump as needed.

With a little maintenance and the occasional repair, your sump pump can effectively keep you and your property safe from floods all year long.

 

CONTACT US

Jim Dhamer
Plumbing and Sewer, Inc.

630-964-2222

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