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A (Brief) History of Modern Plumbing


Ask many what they wouldn’t want to live without and the answer isn’t too surprising: modern indoor plumbing tops many a list. But how did we get to where we are today, with the luxury of water moving in and out of our buildings seamlessly?

The Egyptians

Plumbing can be traced back to practically the beginnings of civilization.  The Egyptians needed water to come to them for their religious practices, so they developed advanced drainage systems that allowed them to control the direction and quantity of water they needed. This practice dates back to 2500 BC.

The Romans

The Romans pioneered sanitation, using latrines and underground drainage. The first sewers built in Rome were built between 800-735 BC. They wanted to move both rainwater and sewage away from their buildings, and drain the low-lying areas of Rome.  They even used large stones over their sewer access, much like the manhole covers of today!  The Romans also utilized public latrines, and the mighty aqueduct system, some of which still stands today, thousands of years after they were constructed.

The Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, some of the wealthier citizens of Europe could finally enjoy one of the greatest modern marvels- indoor plumbing. They had rooms in their grand castles that were specifically used for bathroom activities, which disposed of waste outside of the castle using stone piping and was even properly vented.  At the same time, in South America populations were utilizing drainage channels to keep their extensive rainfall from flooding their cities.  The drainage system was underground and used granite to help absorb the groundwater.  In some areas, this drainage system is still used today!

In Modern Times

More modernly, the indoor flush toilet more how we recognize it was invented in 1775 by an English inventor named Alexander Cumming. He developed the S-shaped pipe below the bowl that used water to create a seal that prevented sewer gas from entering through the toilet. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that Mr. Thomas Crapper (ha!) manufactured a toilet that could be widely distributed. What a wonderful technological advancement! The idea of waking up in the middle of the night to wander outside is something I am very grateful I don’t have to do.

Today, we have water that comes on without touching anything (hands-free faucets) and toilets that seemingly flush themselves. We have tankless water heaters and showers that can be set at exact temperatures, digitally.  What does the future bring for plumbing? We, for one, are excited to find out.

To keep all of your marvelous modern indoor plumbing up to date and in good working order, feel free to Contact Us or call the office at (703) 457-8686.