Since my first days as a plumbing apprentice I have gained a vast collection of pointers, tips and so called rules that have kept me on the road to success. Believe me, it wasn’t an easy road, especially for all of my instructors and the guy who had to pay me weekly, even though all I did was mess things up. I had to learn about tools, fittings, codes, communication and like anything, it takes time. Just dodging demeaning construction lingo on a daily basis was a chore in itself, and my thin skin at the time didn’t make things any easier.
Now, on a cold Monday morning, using yet another new tool, the keyboard, I’m attempting to type out my first of hopefully many blog posts. Sitting inside out of the elements with this tool at my disposal I’ve come to realized how far I’ve actually gone, considering my first plumbing tool, like many before me, was the infamous shovel.
Working close to two decades now in this trade, you start to see the answers a lot easier. One starts to gain an almost gut feeling when approaching a build. A seasoned plumber sees the task at hand from many angles before even raising a finger, most notably when he or she starts to design/build a drain waste and vent system, or better know as DWV. You know, the pipes that make all the bad stuff go away.
If I had choose one, DWV installation is not only the most complex area of the plumbing trade, but it’s also the hardest one to fake. It can quickly separate the doers from the not so doers, so to speak. How hard can it be right? We’ve all heard it before, @#*! runs down hill. Well unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg and I have a stack of books and broken fittings to prove it .
From my first days on the job, waste and vent piping was always a bit intimidating. I would watch the older guys install these systems effortlessly, while still managing to give me a hard time of course. They would mold their art into a master piece out of thin air and I wondered how they knew or anticipated certain things. Any new “plumbers” hired on would soon be painting the picture beside the rest, or weeded out and be pushing a broom by the end of the day. I quickly realized that this knowledge wasn’t going to come to me easy, or overnight for that matter.
Installing DWV flat out takes patience and vision. At the same time there are numerous rules one must follow, while also taking into consideration cosmetics, materials, methods, structure obstacles and sizing. I know, right? Proper venting has to be considered too. You know those white pipes sticking out of your roof? They actually protect water vapor barriers at each of your fixtures throughout the home and without them, you’d have smelly sewer gases. Waste and vent piping surprisingly has a massive amount of science behind it, especially in our multi story structures. But I’m not going to bore you with yoke vents, soil stacks, circuit vents, air admittance valves and so on…
My point is, I truly believe that this aspect of plumbing will never be stolen away from our trade, at least not in my lifetime. No time in the near future do I see technology making a product that turns DWV installation into a weekend DIY project, especially when it comes to re-piping existing structures. There are just too many variables involved and having a skilled tradesman on site is the only real option. While your local handyman can snap together water lines like legos, leaving a ticking time bomb behind newly finished walls, he’ll have to leave the drain, waste and vent piping to the pros.
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