What is a P-Trap?

14/12/15 11:44 AM

classic plumbingI’m always happy to share information with my customers because then we can both save money and time.

Take the way a sink drains, for example. The building inspector will ensure that every drain uses a P-trap before certifying a house for occupancy. A homeowner doesn’t need to know how a P-trap works to reduce plumbing problems but understanding how clever this little device is can help anyone avoid unpleasantness such as a blocked sink or valuables lost down the drain.

The pipe from the base of the sink basin is attached to the main drain carrying waste away from your house. Whether you have a septic system or are connected to a city sewer pipe, you want that dirty water to go away. If there was a straight pipe from the sink down, then the water would empty quickly; that’s a problem because an empty pipe would allow sewer gases to move from the septic tank or city pipe backward and into the house. That gas is as unpleasant to smell as it is unhealthy to breathe in.

Bending the pipe into a 180° curve or the shape of the letter P allows enough water to collect inside the pipe. The gases cannot move back into the house because that water effectively creates an airtight seal. Simple yet brilliant!

There are a few side benefits to having a P-trap.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that you should watch what you throw down the sink to avoid clogging your plumbing system. In a perfect world, that’s what you would do all the time. We’re not perfect so things go down the sink when they shouldn’t go. A clog in the P-trap may be a nuisance but it’s easier to open the P-trap under the sink and reach the material stopping the pipe from doing its job. Certainly, reaching a P-trap is easier and less expensive that addressing a clog farther down the plumbing system, assuming you know exactly where the clog has settled.

Another benefit of the P-trap is what I call a second chance. Jewelry seems to find its way down the drain. I try to tell ladies to avoid placing rings on the side of the sink when washing hands or to close the stopper when using the mirror above a sink to put on earrings. We don’t always listen but a lot of jewelry will rest in the bottom of the P-trap, where it can be retrieved. (Just don’t run the water after you see your grandmother’s wedding ring slide out of view!)

Plumbing systems can be really interesting in the way they take advantage of gravity to move material without energy and there is certainly value in carrying away waste that could make us ill if it remained in the home. Even if you’re not as excited about all this as I can be, now you know that your plumbing system is working with you to help avoid problems like sink clogs and lost family heirlooms.

Call Classic Plumbing by Reno at 860-748-7305 if you ever want to know more or if one of your favorite earrings just went down the drain.


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