Plumbing Products Become Obsolete With Better Understanding
Although basic plumbing concepts have remained largely unchanged over the last 75 years there have been quite a few plumbing products and materials that have fallen out of favor in the last 40 years so. Some of these products have been replaced by more efficient ones, others with products we know better protect public health. We know now that some materials can be downright deadly. Here are the top seven plumbing products we no longer use.
#7 Water Guzzling Toilets:
So how many gallons per flush were old water closets using? Early tank type toilets used as much as 7 gallons of water per flush, then it went to 5GPF then 3.5GPF. Now a standard toilet uses 1.6GPF and the newer HET Toilets (High Efficiency Toilet) use 1.28GPF or less if the toilet has a dual flushing mechanism for liquids and solids. After the 3.5GPF to 1.6GPF debacle companies manufacturing plumbing fixtures have done a nice job making sure future water closets work and work well under the current parameters.
Although S-Traps are still manufactured they have really fallen out of favor in fact they are illegal in many states. The reason being that they don’t work real well. S-Traps are mostly used on the house sewer or on kitchen sinks. Just like the p-trap it allows for a small about of water to be left behind in the trap sealing off the waste line to prevent sewer gases from entering the living space or work place. The problem is that if a drain isn’t vented properly water can run through the trap so quickly that it siphons off the trap seal allowing sewer gases to enter a room or building.
#5 Galvanized Water Pipe
This is another product that you can still use and install however superior materials and easier installation have made it all but obsolete. Galvanized water piping was once the belle of the ball. You could find it everywhere from single family homes to 70 story high rises. It was relatively inexpensive, fairly durable or so we thought and it could be prefabbed easily thereby ensuring super tight quality control. The problem is that over the years it’s proven to be less durable than originally thought. As moving water passes through the inside of the piping it slowly wears away the zinc coating exposing metal beneath. The water reacts with the native metal and oxidation occurs cause a build up of corrosion, which eventually chokes off the flow of water to plumbing fixtures. There were plenty of other reasons to make the switch to a different material for potable water and they are as follows:
Difficulty of Install:
To cut, prep, thread, assemble and install galvanized pipe takes quite a bit of time and skill. Cutting, prep and soldering copper water piping by contrast is a less time consuming task and when multiplied in a home or office building the savings can be dramatic.
Skill Level of Plumbers:
This refers back to the above to some degree. Measuring pipe, doing fittings takeoffs while taking thread depth into account and then assembling and installing galvanized is a bit of a lost skill. Because it’s fallen out of favor plumbers don’t learn how to use the material, which makes it even more undesirable to use.
Galvanized water piping is significantly heavier than it’s copper or PEX counterparts which, makes it even more labor intensive to install.
#4 Bell and Spigot Cast Iron Waste Pipe and Fittings
At one point a significant portion of all waste piping in the US was hub and spigot cast iron. We used poured lead and oakum joints as the method to join piping and fittings. There used to be many foundries in the US that made cast iron pipe and fittings and now there are just two; Charlotte Pipe and Foundry in Charlotte North Carolina and Tyler Pipe in Tyler Texas. With the advent of cast iron no-hub pipe and fittings and PVC, hub and spigot has slowly faded away. There are still pockets of the US that use it, mainly Chicago, Boston and parts of New York but even they are realizing it’s just not economically responsible because of the high cost in labor needed to install.
#3 Cast Iron Drainage Fittings
At one point threaded pipe and fittings where used on waste piping, the fittings used were a mix of traditional fittings with some really bizarre funky things that I’ve had the privilege of buying as a replacement fitting but never had to install. Anvil Corp still makes a limited line of traditional drainage fittings but I don’t know of anyone that has a full line anymore. There was a company out of Chicago that imported some of the odder fittings but they are no longer in business.
#2 Non T&P Regulated Shower Valves
Before Symmons Industries invented the pressure balanced shower valve in 1938 (for more on shower valves click here) all shower valves were of the two-handle variety or the water was mixed in a single valve with no provisions made for fluctuations in water pressure or temperature. It’s taken quite a long time for municipalities and governing bodies enact codes to ensure no shower is installed without temperature or pressure regulation. Us humans can be real sensitive to extreme heat and or extreme cold especially when we are very young or elderly it’s called thermal shock for those taking notes and it can be deadly.
#1 Lead Water Pipe
I wrote lead water piping but it can be lead in anything plumbing related. We used lead water services in the United States up until the mid 80’s, which is pretty scary considering what is happening in Flint Michigan. I can tell you from intimate knowledge that Flint isn’t the only municipality in the US with the exact same issue. There are quite a few that are scampering around trying to figure out how to minimize exposure to themselves and their residents. The simple truth is that the lead leaching laws requiring all plumbing manufacturers to remove all lead out of their products that deliver potable water are relatively new. We are at the tip of the lead water pipe issues but the good thing is that it’s universally banned in the US.