Residential plumbing systems can be surprisingly durable. While some people find parts of their plumbing failing after a few decades, many homes may have much older pipes. For example, cast iron and lead can last for nearly a century! A hundred years is a long time, and the best practices can change substantially over a much shorter period.
As a result of some pipes lasting for so long, it's possible to find homes that still use outdated plumbing designs and methods. While these features may no longer be necessary or desirable, it may be too costly to replace them if they aren't causing problems. House traps are one such feature, and it's worth understanding what they are and how they can affect your plumbing.
What Are Plumbing Traps?
While house traps might be outdated, traps, in general, are not. If you look under any sink in your house, you'll find a "P"-shaped section of plumbing typically made from PVC. Unsurprisingly, these features are known as P-Traps. A P-Trap creates a plug of water where it dips down, creating a seal that prevents sewer gases from re-entering your home.
House traps have a similar function, but they're usually part of your main sewer line since they serve the entire house. Unlike a P-Trap, house traps use a "U" shape that dips down before your sewer line continues. Aside from this difference, a house trap works like a P-Trap by capturing some water to create a plug against sewer gases.
Ultimately, house traps are no longer necessary since the individual P-Traps at each drain can provide the same benefits. More importantly, house traps are themselves a design flaw. The sagging nature of a house trap offers a perfect location for obstructions to form, and it's challenging for plumbers to clear these problems. For these reasons, you'll never find house traps in recent construction.
What If Your Home Has a House Trap?
If you have a house trap, you shouldn't panic. While it's always a good idea to replace these pipes when you have access, you may not be able to reach traps located below concrete slabs or in other challenging areas. In these cases, taking a preventative approach may be too costly to consider, especially if you need to demolish portions of your basement.
However, you should remain aware of any unusual odors or frequent clogs. If multiple drains in your home begin to run slowly or back up, that's a sure sign of an issue with your sewer line. Once your house trap begins to cause problems of this nature, it's worth considering the expense and time necessary to replace the trap with a straight sewer pipe.
While performing significant sewer work is not something any homeowner wants to consider, it's sometimes necessary to keep your drains functioning properly. Although the presence of a house trap doesn't automatically mean that an expensive plumbing visit is in your future, you should always keep it in mind when dealing with sewer problems.
For more information, contact a plumbing contractor near you.