Newer, Better Ways to Plumb Your Home

(ARA) – In many ways, today’s modern baths seem a far cry from the outdated, germ-ridden plumbing systems of the past. Yet, archaeologists have confirmed that the first operational toilet dates back more than 2,800 years. (Interestingly, it has only been in recent years that it was discovered that China, not London’s Thomas Crapper, should be credited for the innovation.)

Changes in plumbing design occurred slowly after that major breakthrough, however. In fact, when Colonists packed for the New World, it is likely they took old-fashioned chamber pots with them. Along the way came the development of the outhouse, which provided privacy but did nothing to carry away waste. It was Thomas Jefferson, a successful architect and inventor when not distracted by politics, who developed a unique indoor privy at his Monticello home by rigging up a system of pulleys.

Even hotels, which were perceived to be the picture of luxury and comfort, didn’t have indoor plumbing until 1829 when a hotel in Boston became the prototype of a modern, first-class American hotel with its indoor bathroom facilities.

Bathing facilities were also nearly non-existent up until the last 150 years, largely because many considered submerged bathing to be a health hazard. Later it was discovered that poor water supplies were the cause of many water-borne illnesses, not bathing. Still, the task of filling and emptying a large tub of water with only a hand pump and pail did not seem worth the effort, except for only the wealthiest individuals who had servants for the task.

It was not until the mid 1800s that finer new homes were being built with separate bathrooms for the first time. Once the idea of a dedicated bathroom caught on, however, the plumbing business boomed. Within one 25-year period of American history (between 1929 and 1954) alone, sales by distributors of plumbing products and heating equipment rose from $498 million to $2.3 billion, an amazing 367 percent increase!

With all the money being invested, it’s little wonder that today’s baths represent some of the most luxurious, eye-catching rooms in the home being accented with such precious materials as gold, malachite, tiger eye, onyx and marble. Yet, some of the biggest developments to happen in the bath are the least obvious because they have occurred where consumers can’t readily see them — behind the walls.

Plumbing pipe materials, for instance, have changed throughout the years, although not as often as one might expect. Early American settlers knew no other building material other than wood, primarily because it was so plentiful in the New World. So America’s earliest plumbing systems were constructed from bored-out logs. By the early 1800s, wood proved to be inefficient and could not keep up with the demands of urban growth. Iron pipe soon became the norm until after World War I when copper piping became popular. Although copper held up better than its wood predecessor, it too demonstrated longevity problems. Over the years, numerous reports and articles documented premature failures in copper systems that could not hold up against aggressive water and/or soil conditions.

Metal pipe remained the only plumbing option for more than 40 years when BF Goodrich Performance Materials (today known as Noveon) pioneered chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) technology. The innovation, which became the basis for today’s FlowGuard Gold CPVC pipe and fittings, was designed to offset the inherent disadvantages of copper pipe-mainly its tendency to corrode, pit and scale. FlowGuard Gold CPVC systems will never fail as a result of pitting or corrosion. In addition, they maintain full water-carrying capacity throughout their entire service life. They also offer homeowners the benefits of a quieter operation, less condensation and greater energy efficiency than copper. Equally important is the fact that they are safer to install (especially in remodeling applications) because they utilize a fast and easy solvent cement joining system in lieu of an open torch and solder.

Yet it wasn’t just the piping materials that have been improved over the years. Other design changes and product upgrades have also taken place even though they might not always be seen. Pressure balancing valves, for instance, today adjust to change hot and cold pressure effectively to maintain a relatively consistent temperature even if the toilet is flushed while someone else is taking a shower. Other anti-scald products are also available on the market that prevent scalding water from reaching end-point devices. These products have settings that automatically regulate maximum water temperature.

As conservation has made its way into kitchens, baths and laundry rooms, flow-restricting products have also found their way on the market, including low-flow toilets that are designed to minimize water waste. Newer, dual flush technology has also been introduced to adjust water flow as necessary.

Other late 20th century innovations were a little more obvious, including the single-handle faucet, one-piece tub and shower units, and pulsating showerheads-all designed to make the bathing experience more convenient and comfortable.

For more information about today’s latest plumbing methods and materials, visit

Caption 1: Residential plumbing has made major advancements in the past 100 years.

Caption 2: Today we have better options for residential plumbing systems, including CPVC pipe and fittings that are replacing corroded copper piping in many applications.