The thicknesses of the water pipe and tube walls can vary. Pipe wall thickness is denoted by various schedules or for large bore polyethylene pipe in the UK by the Standard Dimension Ratio (SDR), defined as the ratio of the pipe diameter to its wall thickness. Pipe wall thickness increases with schedule, and is available in schedules 20, 40, 80, and higher in special cases. The schedule is largely determined by the operating pressure of the system, with higher pressures commanding greater thickness. Copper tubing is available in four wall thicknesses: type DWV (thinnest wall; only allowed as drain pipe per UPC), type 'M' (thin; typically only allowed as drain pipe by IPC code), type 'L' (thicker, standard duty for water lines and water service), and type 'K' (thickest, typically used underground between the main and the meter). Because piping and tubing are commodities, having a greater wall thickness implies higher initial cost. Thicker walled pipe generally implies greater durability and higher pressure tolerances.
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Wooden pipes were used in London and elsewhere during the 16th and 17th centuries. The pipes were hollowed-out logs, which were tapered at the end with a small hole in which the water would pass through. The multiple pipes were then sealed together with hot animal fat. They were often used in Montreal and Boston in the 1800s, and built-up wooden tubes were widely used in the USA during the 20th century. These pipes, used in place of corrugated iron or reinforced concrete pipes, were made of sections cut from short lengths of wood. Locking of adjacent rings with hardwood dowel pins produced a flexible structure. About 100,000 feet of these wooden pipes were installed during WW2 in drainage culverts, storm sewers and conduits, under highways and at army camps, naval stations, airfields and ordnance plants.
Plumbing reached its early apex in ancient Rome, which saw the introduction of expansive systems of aqueducts, tile wastewater removal, and widespread use of lead pipes. With the Fall of Rome both water supply and sanitation stagnated—or regressed—for well over 1,000 years. Improvement was very slow, with little effective progress made until the growth of modern densely populated cities in the 1800s. During this period, public health authorities began pressing for better waste disposal systems to be installed, to prevent or control epidemics of disease. Earlier, the waste disposal system had merely consisted of collecting waste and dumping it on the ground or into a river. Eventually the development of separate, underground water and sewage systems eliminated open sewage ditches and cesspools.