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PLUMBING Reading Plumbing Plans

The first thing that a technician should do upon receiving a set of plans for a building is to review them, scanning each plan to get an overview of the building. Understanding the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing plans is very important because the three trades will be working in the same area to install their equipment, and coordination of their work will be required. Studying each of the plumbing systems one at a time will help the technician understand the entire system more thoroughly. The major systems found in a complete plumbing plan are as follows: sanitary drainage system, plumbing vent system, domestic hot and cold water system, roof drainage system, fire protection sprinkler system, and compressed air system. In a hospital or medical building, plumbing includes the medical gas systems (oxygen, medical air, nitrogen and vacuum). All of these systems will occupy the same space that is allotted for the mechanical and electrical systems. It is essential, therefore, that the systems be understood and coordinated. The set of plans in this book is typical for a small building, with only one sheet required for the plumbing system. This chapter will focus on the plumbing plan for this building.


On the plan, the size and location of each piping system is shown. The domestic cold water piping includes the service piping to the building and the distribution piping inside the building. The water heater and the domestic hot and cold water piping are shown. The heavier lines represent the drain lines. The lines connected to the plumbing fixtures are the sanitary waste lines. The sanitary piping is located underground except for the part that turns up to connect to the plumbing fixtures. The roof drainage piping is connected to the roof drains. This piping is extended, usually above the ceiling, to a point where it can be turned down and installed below the floor. These lines are drawn the same as the sanitary drain lines, and they can be identified as storm drain lines because they are connected to the roof drains. Another piping system is the plumbing vent piping. This piping is connected above the trap on each fixture to let air enter and leave the piping system when water is introduced into the drainage system. (Remember that water and air cannot occupy the same space.)


The floor plan shows the location of the plumbing fixtures, and the fixtures are numbered to correspond to the numbers in the Plumbing Fixture Schedule. The schedule has the name of the fixtures, the manufacturer and model number of each fixture, and the connection size for all the piping connected to the fixture. There is a space for notes that pertain to the fixtures. The domestic cold water piping is shown with a light solid line having long dashes and a dot. The domestic hot water is shown with the same weight line as the domestic cold water lines except that the line is a series of long dashes with two dots. These piping systems have all the fittings and valves needed for a complete system.




The sanitary drainage piping is shown as a heavy solid line. All the various fittings and related equipment associated with the drainage piping are shown. The plumbing vent piping is shown with a series of dashes. The weight of these dashes is the same as the weight for the sanitary drain line. The roof drainage system consists of a series of roof drains with related piping and fittings. This piping is shown with the same weight lines as the sanitary drain lines. Notes are used to direct the technician during the installation. Because this is a small job, the specifications are shown on the drawing. These specifications are titled Plumbing Notes and Specifications. A plumbing riser diagram on the plan shows the method for installing the various piping systems serving the plumbing fixtures. The pipe sizes are shown on this diagram along with the method for connecting them. This diagram has the sanitary piping, vent piping, and domestic hot and cold water. Each vent riser is identified with an R number or riser number. The connection to the water heater is included. A larger connection detail for the water heater is shown in the upper left-hand corner of the drawing. This detail shows the piping and fittings necessary for connecting the piping to the heater. Two other details are shown on the plan. The installation of the exterior clean-out is shown with notes about the installation. The other detail shows the method for installing the emergency roof drain. The purpose of this drain is to drain water off the roof if the other drains fail, or if for some reason water builds up on the roof to a depth of three inches.

The plumbing section is sometimes included as a separate part of the mechanical section. In this chapter, plumbing will be treated as an entirely separate section. The plumbing section usually includes the foundation or basement, floor plan, roof plan, elevations, sections and details, and equipment schedules. Plumbing work outside the building is shown on the site plan. This site plan is usually bound with the other site plans. Sometimes, the plumbing site plan is bound as the first sheet of the plumbing section. In addition to the plumbing work site plan, the plumbing section usually includes the following: 1. The Foundation Planshows piping that is installed under the first floor. The piping is located in the crawl space (if there is one), or under the floor slab of a concrete floor on grade. Piping consists of hot and cold domestic water, sanitary sewer or drainage piping, and special services piping such as fuel gases, medical gases, or process piping. 2. Basement Planpiping serving the basement (underfloor piping) is shown on a basement floor plan if there is a basement; however, notes on the plan specify whether the piping is located under the basement floor or at the basement ceiling level. 3. Floor Planseach floor plan shows plumbing fixtures and equipment served by the plumbing system. Each piece of equipment and/or plumbing fixture has a symbol referring the print reader to the schedule section to see exactly what equipment/fixture is specified. Piping serving the plumbing equipment/fixtures is usually shown on the floor plan where the piping is to be installed. In other words, if the piping is located above the second floor ceiling and serves equipment/fixtures on the third floor, the piping is drawn on the second floor, showing all runouts and riser piping that turn up to the third floor. The plan is noted to say that piping shown on this plan is to be located above the second floor ceiling. In some cases, the engineer/drafter shows the piping for the equipment/ fixtures on the same floor plan on which the equipment/fixtures are shown. To prevent confusion, the engineer/drafter adds notes that explain where the piping is to be installed. 4. Roof Planall plumbing work required on the roof or through the roof is shown on the roofing plan. This includes plumbing vents through the roof, roof drains (if required), gutters (if required), and special plumbing equipment to be mounted on the roof. 5. Elevations, Sections, and Details Plansthese drawings, usually drawn to a larger scale, show details and give information necessary for proper installation of the plumbing system, equipment, and fixtures. An isometrically drawn piping diagram is not uncommon for the detail sheet. 6. Equipment and Fixture Schedulesschedule sheets usually contain the schedules for plumbing fixtures, plumbing equipment, piping, piping connections, plumbing symbols, and plumbing abbreviations.




All residences have a plumbing system that consists of a water supply system; a water distribution system; and a drain, waste, and vent (DWV) system. The water supply system provides a source of water to the structure, and the water distribution system provides hot and/or cold water to each of the fixtures requiring water in the structure. After the water is used, the drain, waste, and vent system is used to dispose of the water into a municipal sewage system or an onsite disposal system. While not defined as plumbing, plumbers sometimes install gas piping. The gas piping system supplies fuel gas to the gas-fired fixtures, which might include water heaters, furnaces, ranges, and clothes dryers.

The materials most often used for plumbing are copper, plastic, cast iron, and black iron. A brief description of each is given in the paragraphs that follow. Copper is frequently used for plumbing because it resists corrosion. However, it is relatively expensive. Copper pipes and fittings may be threaded or smooth for soldered joints. Plastic materials are used in the water supply, water distribution, and DWV systems. These materials are lightweight, noncorrosive, and easily joined. While plastics are allowed in each area of a plumbing system, the plastics used in a water distribution system must have a minimum temperature rating of 180F (82C). Plastics are not suitable for some applications where high strength is required. Cast iron is commonly used where DWV piping passes through the foundation and outside the building, where it is buried. Cast iron is strong and has excellent resistance to corrosion. Cast iron is not generally used for water supply or water distribution systems in residential construction. Black iron is used almost exclusively for gas piping. Black iron pipes and fittings are threaded, so they can be screwed together. Brass fittings are frequently used to join black iron pipe.




A wide assortment of fittings is used for joining pipe, making offsets at various angles, controlling the flow of water, and gaining access to the system for service. Most fittings are made of the same materials as the pipe. Plumbers must be familiar with all types of fittings so they can install their work according to the specifications of the designer. Couplings, Plumbing Figure 1, are used to join two pipes in a straight line. Couplings are generally used only where a single length of pipe is not long enough. Union, Plumbing Figure 2, allows piping to be disconnected without having to cut the pipe. A union consists of three parts, with one part being attached to each pipe and a nut to secure the connection. Then the two parts of the union are screwed together. When it becomes necessary to disconnect the pipe, the two halves of the union are unscrewed.

PLUMBING Figure 1. A coupling is used to permanently join lengths of pipe.

Elbows, Plumbing Figure 3, are used to make changes in direction of the piping. Elbows turn either 90, 45, or 22.5. Some fittings have a hub on each end to accept the outside diameter of the pipe. Others, called street fittings, have a hub on one end, and the other end is the same as the outside diameter of the pipe. Street fittings can be joined directly to other fittings, with no pipe between them. Tees and wyes, Plumbing Figure 4, have three connections to allow a second pipe to join the first from the side. Tees have a 90 side connection. A sanitary tee has a curve in the side connection to help direct the flow. Wyes have a 45 side connection. Cleanouts, Plumbing Figure 5, allow access to sewage plumbing for cleaning. A cleanout consists of a threaded opening and a matching plug. When cleaning is necessary, the plug is removed and a drain cleaning cable, also known as a snake or auger, is run through the line. Cleanouts are installed in each straight run of DWV at the base of drainage stacks, where pipe changes direction more than 45, and several other areas dictated by plumbing codes.

PLUMBING Figure 4. Sanitary tee and wye. PLUMBING Figure 2. A union allows the piping to be disconnected easily.

PLUMBING Figure 3. Street 90 elbow and 45 elbow.

PLUMBING Figure 5. A cleanout allows access to the system.




PLUMBING Figure 6. Each branch should include a shutoff valve.

Valves, Plumbing Figure 6, are used to stop, start, or regulate the flow of water. The faucets on a sink or lavatory are a type of valve. A valve can be used to isolate one part of a system from the rest. Every building must have an isolation valve, and most plumbing fixtures must have an isolation valve located near the fixture. Bathtubs and showers do not typically require separate isolation valves.

The cold water distribution piping continues throughout the house, which also provides the water supply to a water heater. The piping system exiting the water heater creates the hot water distribution system serving the entire house. The size of each pipe providing water to each fixture is dictated by the specific fixture requirements and the plumbing code. Plumbing Figure 7 shows the wate distribution system for a house. When a valve is suddenly closed at a fixture, the water tends to slam into the closed valve. This causes a sudden pressure buildup in the pipes and may cause the pipes to hammer (a sudden shock in the supply piping). For quick closing valves, water hammer arresters are required by most plumbing codes. The water hammer arrester has a piston that transmits shock waves from the system to a gas-filled chamber, Plumbing Figure 8. When a valve is suddenly closed, the gas chamber acts as a shock absorber. Although water cannot be compressed, gas can be. When the pressure tends to build up suddenly, the gas in the arrester compresses and cushions the resulting shock.


The main purpose of a drainage system is to evacuate wastewater and solids from a building. A drain is installed at each fixture, and all individual drains are connected to eventually create a building drain that exits the building. The building drain connects to a building sewer, which conveys the wastewater and solids to a municipal sewer, septic tank, or other approved point of disposal. The purpose of a vent is to allow air circulation within the system to equalize positive and negative pressures within the piping. Each fixture must be protected by a vent to ensure safe operation of the drainage system. A vent can terminate independently through a roof or be connected with other individual vents to create a branch vent before terminating through a roof. A venting device known as an air admittance valve (AAV) is accepted by some codes. When a plumbing fixture is operated and water drains out of the system, negative pressure causes the valve to open, allowing air to enter as needed to equalize the pressure. When the flow stops, gravity closes the valve, preventing the escape of sewer gases through the valve. An AAV eliminates the need for venting through a roof.


In most communities, water is distributed through a system of water mains under or near the street. When a new house is constructed, the municipal water department taps (makes an opening in) this main. The supply piping from the municipal tap to the house is installed by plumbers who work for the plumbing contractor. The main supply pipe entering the house must be larger in diameter than the individual branches installed from the main to each point of use. There are two basic reasons for this. First, water develops friction as it flows through pipes, and the greater size reduces this friction in the long supply line. Second, when more than one fixture is used at a time, the main supply must provide adequate flow for both. Generally, the main supply pipe for a one- or twofamily house is 3/4-inch or 1-inch pipe. At the point where the main supply enters the building, a water meter is installed. The water meter measures the amount of water used. The municipal water department relies on this meter to determine the proper water bill for the building. The main water shutoff valve is located near the water meter.

The sewer contains foul-smelling, germ-ladened gases that must be prevented from entering the house.






PLUMBING Figure 7. Hot- and cold-water piping.




Piston moves & compresses air cushion

Permanent, pressurized air cushion

Pressure spike generated by valve closure

Piston at rest

Water flows through system

PLUMBING Figure 8. Water hammer arrestor. PLUMBING Figure 11. Venting a trap allows air to enter the system and prevents siphoning.

If wastewater simply emptied into the sewer from the pipe, this sewer gas would be free to enter the building. To prevent this from happening, a trap is installed at each fixture. A trap is a fitting that naturally fills with water to prevent sewer gas from entering the building, Plumbing Figure 9. Not all traps are easily seen. Some fixtures, such as water closets (toilets), have built-in traps, Plumbing Figure 10.

PLUMBING Figure 9. A trap fills with water to prevent sewer gas from entering the building.

As the water rushes through a trap, it is possible for a siphoning action to be started. (The air pressure entering the fixture drain is higher than that on the other side of the trap. This forces the water out of the trap.) To prevent DWV traps from siphoning, a vent is installed near the outlet side of the trap. The vent is an opening that allows air pressure to enter the system and break the suction at the trap, Plumbing Figure 11. Because the vent allows sewer gas to pass freely, it must be vented to the outside of the building. Unless protected by an AAV all of the fixtures are vented into one main vertical pipe, through the roof, Plumbing Figure 12.

PLUMBING Figure 10. A water closet has a built-in trap.

For residential construction, the architect does not usually include a plumbing plan with the set of working drawings. The floor plan shows all of the plumbing fixtures by standard symbols. These symbols are




PLUMBING Figure 12. DWV system.




PLUMBING Figure 13. Typical manufacturers rough-in sheet. Courtesy of Universal-Rundle.




easily recognized, because they resemble the actual fixture. The dimensions of the fixtures are provided by the manufacturer on rough-in sheets, Plumbing Figure 13. If the building and the plumbing are fairly simple, plumbers may prepare estimates and bids, and complete the work from the symbols on the floor plan only. For more complex houses, the plumbing contractor usually draws a plumbing isometric,

Plumbing Figure 14, or a special plumbing plan. This sheet includes more details than would normally be found on a plumbing plan for a single-family housing unit. The extra detail is included here to help you understand the plumbing plan. Plumbing plans show each kind of piping by a different symbol. Common plumbing symbols are shown in the Appendix. It will help you understand the plumbing plan if you trace each kind of piping

PLUMBING Figure 14. Single-line isometric shown in PLUMBING Figure 12.




from its source to each fixture. For example, trace the gas piping for the Town House. The gas lines can be recognized by the letter G in the piping symbol. The gas supply is shown as a broken line until it is inside the garage. Broken lines are used to indicate that the pipe is underground or concealed by construction. Although it is not noted on this plan, the plumbing contractor should know that the building code requires the gas line to be run in a sleeve where it passes through the foundation and the concrete slab, Plumbing Figure 15. Just inside the garage wall, the broken line changes to a solid line. At this point, a symbol indicates that the solid line (exposed piping) turns down or away. Here, at this point, the gas piping runs above the concrete slab and along the garage wall. A callout on this line indicates that the diameter of the pipe is 3/4 inch. At the back of the garage, the gas line has a tee. Both of the outlets of this tee are 1/2 inch in diameter. One side of the tee supplies the forced air unit (F .A.U.). The other side of

the tee continues around behind the F .A.U. to another tee, and then to the water heater. The side outlet of the second tee supplies a log lighter in the fireplace. This branch is shown on the first floor plumbing plan. Notice that the log-lighter branch is reduced further to 1/4-inch diameter. You should trace each type of piping in a similar manner to be sure you understand it. Using colored pencils to trace the different types of piping may eliminate some of the confusion on crowded drawings. Refer to the details on the drawing for clarification of the complex areas. As you trace each line, look for the following: kind of plumbing (hot water, cold water, waste) diameter fittings exposed or concealed where line passes through building surfaces

PLUMBING Figure 15. Sleeve for running gas piping under and through concrete. Local codes specify the design of sleeves used for gas piping. This figure shows only the basic concept.




Understanding mechanical, electrical, and plumbing plans is necessary for each tradesperson. The plumbing plan includes sanitary drainage, plumbing vents, domestic hot and cold water, roof drainage, fire protection sprinkler, and compressed air systems. In a hospital or medical facility, the medical gases (oxygen, medical air, nitrogen, and vacuum) are part of the plumbing. The plumbing plan shows whether piping is underground or above ground and includes the connections and location of piping. The Plumbing Fixture Schedule identifies the manufacturer, model number, and other pertinent information about each fixture. Certain line weights and configurations denote various types of piping. The riser diagram shows how various piping systems are to be installed. Details show specific information on connections, installation, and fittings.