Most large cities today pipe solid wastes to sewage treatment plants in order to separate and partially purify the water, before emptying into streams or other bodies of water. For potable water use, galvanized iron piping was commonplace in the United States from the late 1800s until around 1960. After that period, copper piping took over, first soft copper with flared fittings, then with rigid copper tubing utilizing soldered fittings.
Galvanized steel potable water supply and distribution pipes are commonly found with nominal pipe sizes from 3⁄8 inch (9.5 mm) to 2 inches (51 mm). It is rarely used today for new construction residential plumbing. Steel pipe has National Pipe Thread (NPT) standard tapered male threads, which connect with female tapered threads on elbows, tees, couplers, valves, and other fittings. Galvanized steel (often known simply as "galv" or "iron" in the plumbing trade) is relatively expensive, and difficult to work with due to weight and requirement of a pipe threader. It remains in common use for repair of existing "galv" systems and to satisfy building code non-combustibility requirements typically found in hotels, apartment buildings and other commercial applications. It is also extremely durable and resistant to mechanical abuse. Black lacquered steel pipe is the most widely used pipe material for fire sprinklers and natural gas.
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The projects we've laid out here are particularly simple, but plumbing can be tricky, so if you're ever unsure, don't be afraid to ask for help. These projects are all pretty straightforward, but you never know what will come up, especially with older homes. We've selected some pretty good videos, but do some research and find some other videos if something about your setup looks a little different. The Internet is a wonderful thing.
To unclog a bathtub drain the right way, you'll need to take the drain plate off. That's the little round plate that has the lever on it for opening and closing the pop-up drain stopper. It takes a little effort, but it's not too hard to remove and behind that plate, you have access to a straight drain pipe you can send the drain snake down. Check out the video above from This Old House for instructions.
Drain snake. This is a simple, shorter version of the big gas-powered snake that plumbers use to clear clogs deep in your drains. But if the clog is not so deep, owning one of these can save you a good bit of money. They come in different lengths and you can buy powered versions, but a simple 25' snake with a hand-powered crank will set you back less than $25.
Pipefitters, sometimes simply called fitters, install and maintain pipes that carry chemicals, acids, and gases. These pipes are used mostly in manufacturing, commercial, and industrial settings. Fitters install and repair pipe systems in power plants, as well as heating and cooling systems in large office buildings. Some pipefitters specialize as gasfitters, sprinklerfitters, or steamfitters.
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The straight sections of plumbing systems are called "pipes" or "tubes". A pipe is typically formed via casting or welding, whereas a tube is made through extrusion. Pipe normally has thicker walls and may be threaded or welded, while tubing is thinner-walled and requires special joining techniques such as brazing, compression fitting, crimping, or for plastics, solvent welding. These joining techniques are discussed in more detail in the piping and plumbing fittings article.
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The difference between pipes and tubes is simply in the way it is sized. PVC pipe for plumbing applications and galvanized steel pipe for instance, are measured in IPS (iron pipe size). Copper tube, CPVC, PeX and other tubing is measured nominally, which is basically an average diameter. These sizing schemes allow for universal adaptation of transitional fittings. For instance, 1/2" PeX tubing is the same size as 1/2" copper tubing. 1/2" PVC on the other hand is not the same size as 1/2" tubing, and therefore requires either a threaded male or female adapter to connect them. When used in agricultural irrigation, the singular form "pipe" is often used as a plural.