Plumbing systems have been used for thousands of years to provide drinking water and remove water-borne wastes from buildings. In fact, “plumber” is derived from the latin word “plumbum,” meaning lead. Beginning with the Romans, lead was the material of choice for plumbing pipes because it was soft and easy to fabricate. Some older cities, such as Boston, still have much lead plumbing. So residents with lead plumbing are advised to let water flow briefly to dispel any lead that has leached into the water.
New plumbing installations use copper or various kinds of plastic piping.
Clogged drains are perhaps the most common plumbing problem. Clogged toilets can be caused by the buildup of calcium deposits inside the toilet bowl. Quite often a child has flushed a toy or other object down the toilet, which is restricting the flow. If the clog cannot be relieved with a rubber toilet plunger, a plumber may need to be called.
Bathtub and lavatory drains are clogged by foreign material, mostly human hair. Hair should be removed from the tub after showering, to keep it from entering the drain. If drains are still clogged after removing the foreign material, a plunger can also be tried. If there is an overflow hole, it must be tightly covered with a wet cloth. This is necessary for the air pressure to be applied to the drain line, instead of coming out the hole.
Kitchen sink drains are usually plugged by food particles. Discretion should be exercised in using a garbage disposal. Tough and fibrous food like corn husks and onion skins should not be run through the disposal. Large amounts of potato peelings can also cause problems by forming a thick slurry.
Basement floor drains tend to accumulate floor residue and are susceptible to plugging. They should be kept clean to prevent basement flooding from a leak.
Faucet drips can be terribly annoying, especially at night when you are trying to sleep. This is in addition to the wasting of water. The kitchen sink faucet spout may leak at the base and run over the countertop. Leaks around the faucet stems can do the same. If the sink stoppers are inadvertently left in place overnight, a faucet drip can flood the kitchen floor by morning. The kitchen sink does not have an emergency overflow.
Many carpets and ceilings have been ruined by rupture of a flexible water hose to the dishwasher or laundry machine. This possibility can be virtually prevented by installation of new heavy-duty hoses.
Water heaters are usually neglected until there is no hot water. If the heater is gas-operated, the problem may be as simple as an unlit pilot light. An electric heater may have a tripped circuit breaker, or one or two heating elements burned out. If relighting the pilot light or resetting the breaker does not fix the problem, most people need to call the plumber.
The heater may have developed a leak, which extinguished the pilot light. A leak also means the basement could be flooded, if the leak suddenly worsens.
A tapping noise or vibration, which is heard when the hot water is running, may be water hammer. It is caused when long runs of pipes are not fastened securely. A rumbling sound in the water heater may indicate the bottom electric heating element is covered by a sludge deposit in the bottom of the tank.
If the homeowner cannot correct the problem with common-sense solutions, it is time to call a reputable Houston plumber.
Every homeowner should develop a working relationship with a reliable plumber, one who will give 24/7 emergency service. Plumbing emergencies seem to happen at night or on the weekend. Few things paralyze a busy household like a plumbing emergency.