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Plumbing Photos
History tells us that plumbing came to us originally from the ancient Romans.  The word plumbing is derived from the Latin word "plumbus" (lead), the original piping material used by the Romans.  Lead is no longer used in supply piping or in solder for copper tubing as it is toxic and has been linked to medical conditions (including brain damage) if ingested.  However, copper tubing in older homes may have tin/lead solder and many brass faucets do contain some amount of lead.  If you are looking for more information about the quality of the drinking water, it would be best to check with a laboratory for testing.  The plumbing system now provides water and gas as well as drainage/sewage disposal for homes and businesses.  The two most problematic areas of a plumbing system that I have found are the drain/waste lines and the water heater.  Drains develop leaks over time and can cause significant damage if left unrepaired.  Life expectancy of a water heater is generally 10-15 years; however, life expectancy of tanks in homes supplied by well water may be half that due to the water quality.  In addition, many homeowners will improperly replace their water heater or hire an unlicensed and inadequately trained handyman to replace it improperly for them.  As a result, many water heaters are unsafely installed.  No matter what you may have been told, replacing a water heater does require a permit from the local building department and should be done by a licensed plumbing contractor.
The white on this older galvanized steel pipe is oxidation.  In the recess of the foundation, the pipe can be seen to be corroded.  While not leaking currently, this will give out at some point in the future and should be replaced.
You might be able to make out the space between these two fittings under an older Santa Rosa home.  The cast iron fittings are still in good shape, but the galvanized steel pipe is just about completely corroded through.  A plumbing contractor will generally replace this with ABS (plastic) pipe.
Saddle valves are generally used to supply water to a refrigerator ice maker.  The problem is that the valve actually pierces the copper tubing.  The rubber gasket will eventually degrade, resulting in leaks (generally under the house).  I am not crazy about these valves.
The temperature/pressure relief valve on this Santa Rosa water heater does not have a discharge line.  The T/P valve is designed to release water if the water in the tank becomes too hot or if the pressure is too high.  Should this one discharge, it could spray someone with scalding water.
This gas valve in a Windsor home was not in use.  When homes are vacated, the gas valve is often left uncapped.  The end of the valve should be capped to prevent someone from turning on the gas.  A gas leak can lead to a fire or explosion.
The underside of this drain pipe in a 1950s Petaluma home is corroding and those little rusty stalagmites are areas that are leaking.  The pipe has nearly completely corroded through and should be replaced.  Not overly uncommon with horizontal galvanized steel drain pipes.
This drain pipe is a little further gone than the one in the previous picture.  That is because it is in contact with the damp soil.  Contact with soil will cut years of life off of a galvanized steel pipe.  If this had been isolated, it might still be serviceable.
The next two photos show a water heater in distress.  The black adjacent to the burner compartment door was likely caused by an improper orifice at the burner.  Natural gas and LP (propane) require different orifices.  This is a hazard and the water heater should be replaced.
This appliance cannot be saved.  Water heaters have a typical life span of 10-15 years; however, areas with "aggressive" water can destroy a tank in as little as 5 years.
As water is heated, it will expand.  An expansion tank gives a place for that heated water to expand into.  Expansion tanks are required whenever a pressure reducing valve is installed on a plumbing supply system.
When the drain plumbing is below the city sewer, it is necessary to pump the #@!& uphill.  Done with a grinder or ejector pump, regular maintenance by a licensed and qualified plumbing contractor is necessary.  In this Santa Rosa home, the pump failed and spilled sewage.  Health hazard and ick!
Fixture drains and p-traps are a very common location for a leak.  Few homeowners wander around under their homes to check for leaks.  While many drain leaks under homes do not cause damage, some do and can lead to some extensive damage.  If caught early, repairs are typically straightforward.
The packing or o-ring around a valve will wear out and begin leaking.  Some of this water may be able to work its way back into the wall cavity where it can lead to rot damage.  This is another easy fix.
Plastic piping is subject to damage from the sun.  Ultraviolet light will degrade plastic in a matter of months.  Any piping exposed to the sun should be painted to slow this degredation and preserve the condition of the drain and vent piping material.
This photo and the next were actually pretty frightening.  The hot water was actually boiling as it erupted from the faucet.  This is not just a scald danger, the water heater did not have a temperature/pressure relief valve.  (Continued on the next photo)
(Continued from the previous photo)
Without a T/P valve, a water heater can explode, with catastrophic consequences.  There are several video posts on YouTube that demonstrate the destructive power of a water heater explosion.
Nothing quite like a damaged sewer drain pipe to make your day!  This one was north of Healdsburg.  Ahhh... the smell of it.
Click on these thumbnail images for a nifty little slide show and descriptions.
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