By: Kurt Wilson | February 24, 2016

Like how most problems are being solved, repairing your plumbing issues also requires the basic knowledge of how it works and the parts that make up the entire system.  And if you are fond of doing the repairs yourself but don’t know enough about plumbing, continue reading and we’ll help you know more about plumbing so you can do the repairs right and save time and money.

Plumbing Systems Always Have Two Subsystems

The first subsystem brings the clean water in (supply system) and the second one takes the dirty water out (drainage system). 

What you need to know about the supply system:

The water that comes from the 1st subsystem is under pressure.  Since houses mostly have different water sources for all the different corners, the water needs pressure to be able to go to all the designated outlets.  Before water comes out of those water taps, it will go through the meter which registers the amount of water you need. The main shutoff valve is usually located near this meter.  It is important that you shut this valve off during emergencies before a pipe bursts.  In cases where the problem is limited to the sink or the toilet only, then you can simply turn the shutoff valve for the sink or toilet.  With that being said, each fixture should have an individual shutoff valve.

Water coming from the main water line is ready for your needs for cold water.  However, the hot water goes through another process.  The cold water passes through another pipe that goes directly to the home’s water heater.  The heater’s thermostat is usually set at 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit, although 120 degrees is more economical and is also adequate for outlets or appliances that require hot water.  Some automatic dishwashers require water with higher temperature.  It is good to know that many of them have water heaters installed inside which can boost the temperature of the hot water that’s going in by another 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  The thermostat signals the temperature that the water would be set to and the water heater begins the process of heating.  When the heated water is ready, it goes out for distribution as needed.  

Now we go to the drainage system:

Unlike the supply system, wastewater does not depend on pressure to be able to go out the sewer line.  The water only depends on gravity since pipes in this system normally pitch downward.  But as simple as it sounds, there’s actually more to this system like vents, traps and clean outs.  If you are familiar with the vent that sticks up your roof, that actually allows air to enter your drainpipes.  Know that without air supply from these vents, the water won’t be able flow properly down the drain, which will make you siphon the water in the traps.
Traps are very essential.  These are the curved or usually S-shaped sections of the pipes under the drain. Here’s how the traps are built in some of your fixtures:

  1. Sink - the curved section of the pipe under the drain is the trap.  The wastewater has enough force to go down the drain; however, there’s a small amount of water that’s being left in the trap to avoid the sewer stench from going up to your house.
  2. Toilets - these are self-trapped so there is no need to have a trap in the drain line.
  3. Bathtubs - these have drum traps which not only work as prevention for unpleasant smell to back up into the room, but also to collect hair and dirt that may cause clogged drains.
  4. Kitchen sinks - usually have grease traps that can also clog the drain.  Note that grease and hair are the usual cause of clogging and some traps have clean-out plugs that give you access to remove the blockage.

A drain system that consists of all these components is referred to as DWV or the drain-waste-vent system.  All the components should be in good condition for water to flow out freely.  You can examine your pipes to better understand the system.

Remember that these two subsystems have two distinct operations and there is no overlapping between them; but there are bridges between them which make the system worth having.  These bridges are referred to as fixtures in plumbing jargon.  But don’t be confused.  Toilets, bathtubs, sinks, an outside faucet, and even a washing machine are called fixtures.  Devices that draw freshwater and take waste water out are called fixtures, and the subsystems are strictly segregated in these.

So before you start fixing your plumbing, every member of the family should know where the individual shutoff valves are located because on each repair, the valves should be turned off.  Moreover, you will need to check with the local plumbing code before changing or adding pipes to your system.  With this, you’d be able to learn what’s allowed and what’s not, and identify if you can or cannot do the work yourself.  If you get a go signal, then you will definitely save money by doing the works yourself.  Domestic plumbing may not be as easy as we think they should be, but it could be fun! More DIY plumbing repair from Dwight Gropper at

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