So we are talking pipes. Not the kind that were calling “oh Danny boy,” but the kind that have been bringing water to us since the Romans plumbed their private homes, amphitheaters, and bathhouses. The use of their lead and clay piping for potable water was still a choice method of plumbing right down to World War II. At least the lead piping was, as it was very durable; an ideal piping material. However, this kind of pipe went quickly out of style with the dangers of lead poisoning becoming a concern. To this day, lead pipes are still being replaced across the US.
They once said all roads lead to Rome. It’s no longer true, but we can still say all waterways came from Rome. Although it wasn’t their invention, the Romans made the aqueduct a thing of great society advancement by bringing the design and construction of the aqueduct to an all time high. They were in the business of conquering the world. Occasionally the plundered their enemies ideas as well. Thus this amazing system that supplied water to their pipes and indoor plumbing was born by some of the best engineers and plumbers this world has ever seen– the Romans.
Another choice of piping to grace the pages of history that might surprise you would be hollowed out wooden logs wrapped in steel banding. Suddenly everything about the house in Swiss Family Robinson seems possible! Fictional story but it’s wooden water mains were truly a thing of history. Close to 500 years ago, logs being used for water distribution in England was the done thing. Over across the water in the US during the late 1700s to the 1800s, even we were using hollowed out logs for our indoor plumbing.
It was the advent of the sand cast, cast iron water main that ended the era of the wooden water main in the early 1900s.
Plumbing continued to take huge leaps in durability and flow characteristics from that point on. Just after WWII, galvanized screw piping became the new material of choice for interior plumbing. Then the 70s rolled around and copper pipes became the new player, replacing galvanized piping for water piping supremacy. Although it was more like a “come back” for copper pipes really, as they were first designed and engineered by the Egyptians. And now we’ve come from the days of Egypt’s copper alloys and Rome’s lead water mains to PEX. It was invented in the 1960’s but it has taken some time for it’s popularity to catch on. It’s really only been in the last 25 years the PVC and PEX tubings has become better known for its ease of use, durability, and cost effectiveness.
Today home owners get to choose from copper piping or PEX. To learn more about their pros and cons visit NIR Plumbing’s page here: Repipes
Now if you are in need of repiping and you don’t think you are going with a wooden log situation under your home, its time to chat with us plumbers. Hopefully all this history on pipes hasn’t ruined the well known Irish tune for you—
Oh Danny boy, the pipes the pipes are calling,
From copper to lead, and then to wooden logs,
Sand cast, cast iron was then supplying,
T’was water mains caught up in history’s stride,
But came in pipes then a galvanized screw,
Then copper once more did prove true,
Water then did run in PEX and PVC,
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, what pipes can do.
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