Plumbing is something we take for granted in our modern world. Few give it much thought if it works. We notice when it doesn’t, right? More than just “going with the flow” advances made in the plumbing world have kept up with changes in society and technology. Have you ever thought about it?


When did plumbing become a “thing”?


Simply put, plumbing is a system that allows fluids to flow for different applications. Plumbing systems use pipes, valves, plumbing fixtures, tanks, and other equipment to keep fluids flowing. Plumbing started during ancient civilizations when public baths originated. When public baths became popular, people needed potable water and wastewater removal. The Mesopotamians introduced clay sewage pipes around 4000 BCE. Later, around 2700 BC, standardized earthen plumbing pipes with broad flanges (rims) used asphalt to prevent leaking. In 2400 BCE, copper piping appeared in Egypt.


Plumbing really does take its roots in ancient civilizations, in fact the word plumber is from the Roman Empire and the Latin for lead in plumbum. Roman roofs used lead in water channels, drainpipes, piping and for making baths.


Plumbing advances have not followed a straight path


After the Fall of the Roman Empire, water sanitation stood still and went backwards. Later, sanitation got better. After World War II, the use of lead in plumbing sharply decreased with the knowledge of lead poisoning. Pipes have also evolved. From the early clay pipes to copper pipes with intricate design to the introduction of plastic pipes in the 1960’s.


What could be more important to plumbing innovation than pipes?


Although significant, copper pipes and pipe evolution are not the only important innovations in plumbing. The three most important innovations are:


  1. toilets,
  2. faucets, and
  3. water heaters.


Ah, the toilet and the sewage it creates


Toilets were invented during the castle-building days of the 11th century. According to the Smithsonian Institute, the bathrooms were known as “garderobers”. They were like closets that ran vertically down to the ground. Eventually, a sewage system had to be built. Spiral-up towers, cesspools and moats were ideas for plumbing. The Christchurch monastery invented a detailed sewage system of running water, rain drainage and waste.


You know what comes next, don’t you?


Toilet paper first came out in 1857, until then clay, stones and communal sponges, corncobs, and newspapers were used. And we complain that our toilet paper is not soft enough? We don’t have it that rough … (pun intended).



The allure of faucets


Faucets are another innovation developed in 1913 when the Quaturn Cartidge was invented. This invention stopped and started the flow of water. Something that sounds so simple, took many years to develop. Now we give it absolutely no thought. As long as we turn the water and it comes out – and when we give an opposite turn, it shuts off, we’re good. Think how amazing that was to the first faucet users!


The bath is elevated with heated water


Although the Romans did have large baths with heated water the process was not home-friendly – or affordable for individuals and families.


The first water heater was invented in 1868 by painter Benjamin Waddy Maughan. However, Maughan’s water heater was considered unsafe because it lacked the parts needed for it to function safely. A few years later, mechanical engineer Edwin Ruud invented a more sophisticated and safer water heater.


Believe it or not, the now-popular tankless water heater was invented in 1929. In the 1990s water heaters were at their best with Rudd’s designs and ideas being used.


Other plumbing innovations that have occurred in the last couple of decades besides the more-refined tankless water heaters new plumbing advances include hot water recirculation, smart irrigation, leak detectors, touchless faucets, greywater systems, and digital technology also has become involved with smart toilets, smart showers, smart water heaters, touchless toilets, and Bluetooth shower heads.


As society and technology changes, so does plumbing and all the fixtures and appliances related to flowing water in our homes and businesses.


If you are ready to install new innovations or fix your tried-and-true plumbing system, call Fite Plumbing at (317) 271-5400. Or you can visit us at and schedule an appointment online. (We have advanced, too!) Whether it is simple plumbing or the latest innovation you have in mind, we can provide the service you need in a smart, efficient way.


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