Investigating plumbing history we see clay, cast iron, and copper pipe as popular materials. That may be a little misleading, as the progression isn’t exactly clay to cast to copper, and that leaves out a lot of pipe making materials. But we can use the clay to cast to copper order if a frequency of usage model is adopted.
Considering the popularity of pipe material, the order would be clay, then cast iron, then copper, with many other materials used as well. The earliest pipes we might hardly recognize as pipes. There were hand made, and more like lined trenches and half-pipe shapes. The earliest were clay mixed with straw or even bored stone. Wood was used, in the form of troughs or bored logs, but those don’t last long.
The Romans had quite sophisticated plumbing. But the Romans seemed to most concerned about clever ways to get water in, using clay, stone, or lead pipes. Carrying waste water away from the point of use was managed through the use of trenches, often open, and leading down to the river.
We still have most of those materials, though lead has fallen from favor, due to its toxic nature. Although we don’t use it any more, the term “plumber” comes from the Latin word for lead, plumbumb. Your plumber will be able to advise you which of these traditional materials, along with many new types, will serve you best for your next plumbing project.
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