Before you get involved with most plumbing projects, you'll need to shut off the water flowing to whatever you're working on. Most of the time, there are easy-to-access gate valves or compression valves that you can turn with your hand. Turn them clockwise all the way to turn off the water and counter-clockwise to turn it back on when you're done. For sinks, look under the sink and you'll usually see two valves—one for hot water and one for cold. On kitchen sinks, you might also see valves for the ice maker on your fridge or your dishwasher. Just turn them all off. For toilets, the valves are on the wall or right on the pipe behind the toilet.
Plumbing originated during ancient civilizations such as the Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese cities as they developed public baths and needed to provide potable water and wastewater removal, for larger numbers of people. Standardized earthen plumbing pipes with broad flanges making use of asphalt for preventing leakages appeared in the urban settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization by 2700 BC. The Romans used lead pipe inscriptions to prevent water theft. The word "plumber" dates from the Roman Empire. The Latin for lead is plumbum. Roman roofs used lead in conduits and drain pipes and some were also covered with lead. Lead was also used for piping and for making baths.
PVC/CPVC – rigid plastic pipes similar to PVC drain pipes but with thicker walls to deal with municipal water pressure, introduced around 1970. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, and it has become a common replacement for metal piping. PVC should be used only for cold water, or for venting. CPVC can be used for hot and cold potable water supply. Connections are made with primers and solvent cements as required by code.
Specialized plumbing tools include pipe wrenches, flaring pliers, pipe vise, pipe bending machine, pipe cutter, dies, and joining tools such as soldering torches and crimp tools. New tools have been developed to help plumbers fix problems more efficiently. For example, plumbers use video cameras for inspections of hidden leaks or problems, they use hydro jets, and high pressure hydraulic pumps connected to steel cables for trench-less sewer line replacement.
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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While you might be tempted to get out your wrench and try and fix those plumbing fixtures, plumbing can be a lot more complicated than you might think. In the wrong hands, even the simplest-seeming of plumbing jobs can quickly become something disastrous or costly. The chances are that, whatever your problem is, your plumber has seen it before and will be able to rectify the situation, quickly and efficiently. Why run the risk of turning a simple job into a plumbing catastrophe, when you can book plumbing services through Handy to nip it in the bud?
Despite the Romans' common use of lead pipes, their aqueducts rarely poisoned people. Unlike other parts of the world where lead pipes cause poisoning, the Roman water had so much calcium in it that a layer of plaque prevented the water contacting the lead itself. What often causes confusion is the large amount of evidence of widespread lead poisoning, particularly amongst those who would have had easy access to piped water. This was an unfortunate result of lead being used in cookware and as an additive to processed food and drink, for example as a preservative in wine. Roman lead pipe inscriptions provided information on the owner to prevent water theft.