Is Drainage Considered as Plumbing? (The Basics of Drainage and Plumbing Explained)

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” This famous line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” might make you think about the importance of proper water management in our homes.

But how do we differentiate between drainage and plumbing? Is drainage considered plumbing? Let’s dive into the topic and explore the basics of drainage and plumbing systems.

Is drainage considered plumbing?

Yes, drainage is considered a part of plumbing. Plumbing refers to the system of pipes, fixtures, and other devices used to distribute and manage water supply, as well as remove wastewater and sewage.

Drainage systems are an integral component of plumbing, as they are responsible for collecting and disposing of wastewater and other liquids from sinks, showers, toilets, and other plumbing fixtures.

The plumbing system typically includes both supply lines that bring fresh water into a building and drain lines that remove used water and waste. So, drainage is an essential aspect of plumbing infrastructure.

The difference between drainage systems and plumbing systems


  • Drainage system: The primary function of a drainage system is to remove wastewater and excess water from a building or an area. It collects and transports water, along with any waste materials, away from the building to a designated disposal point or a municipal sewer system.
  • Plumbing system: A plumbing system encompasses a broader range of functions. It is responsible for distributing potable (drinkable) water throughout a building, providing water supply to fixtures such as sinks, toilets, showers, and appliances. Additionally, a plumbing system also includes drainage components to remove wastewater.


  • Drainage system: A drainage system consists of pipes, drains, and fittings designed to collect and convey wastewater. It typically includes components like floor drains, roof drains, soil stacks, and sewer lines. These pipes are designed to transport water with waste and debris to a sewage treatment facility or a septic system.
  • Plumbing system: A plumbing system comprises both water supply and drainage components. It includes pipes, valves, fixtures, faucets, water heaters, and other equipment needed to provide a clean water supply to different parts of a building. It also includes drain pipes and traps to remove wastewater from fixtures and appliances.

Water types

  • Drainage system: A drainage system primarily handles wastewater, which includes water from sinks, showers, toilets, and other sources inside the building. This water may contain various contaminants and waste materials.
  • Plumbing system: A plumbing system deals with two types of water: potable water (also known as drinking water) and non-potable water. Potable water is suitable for consumption and general use, while non-potable water is used for purposes like flushing toilets or irrigation.

Regulations and codes

  • Drainage system: Local building codes and regulations typically govern drainage systems to ensure proper wastewater disposal, prevent contamination, and uphold public health and sanitation standards.
  • Plumbing system: Plumbing systems are subject to more extensive regulations and codes compared to drainage systems. These regulations cover aspects such as water supply quality, fixture installation, pipe sizing, ventilation, and more. Compliance with these regulations is crucial to ensure safety and prevent waterborne diseases.

What are the components of a drainage system?

  • Drain pipes: These pipes collect and carry wastewater from plumbing fixtures to the sewer or septic system. Drain pipes are usually sloped to allow for the smooth flow of wastewater.
  • Grates or covers: These are installed over the drain openings to prevent debris from entering the drainage system. They are commonly found in floor drains, shower drains, and outdoor drainage systems.
  • Drainage channels: These are channels or troughs designed to collect and channel water away from specific areas, such as driveways, walkways, or outdoor spaces. Drainage channels are typically installed with grates or covers to prevent blockage.
  • Catch basins: Catch basins are underground containers that collect excess water from the surface and direct it into the drainage system. They are equipped with grates to prevent large debris from entering and are often connected to drainage pipes.
  • Storm drains: Storm drains are components of a drainage system designed to collect rainwater or stormwater runoff from roads, parking lots, and other large surfaces. They typically include catch basins and a network of pipes to carry the collected water away.
  • Downspouts and gutters: These components are part of a building’s exterior drainage system and are primarily used to collect and channel rainwater from the roof to the ground. Downspouts are vertical pipes connected to gutters, which collect water from the roof’s edges.

What are the components of a plumbing system?

  • Water supply pipes: These pipes bring clean, potable water into a building from the municipal water supply or other water sources such as wells. They are typically made of materials like copper, PEX (cross-linked polyethylene), or PVC.
  • Fixtures: Plumbing fixtures are devices that use water, such as sinks, showers, bathtubs, toilets, and faucets. They are connected to the water supply pipes and often have valves or controls to regulate water flow.
  • Valves: Valves are used to control the flow and shut off the water supply in various parts of the plumbing system. Examples include isolation valves, shut-off valves, and pressure regulating valves.
  • Water heater: The water heater is a crucial component that heats water for domestic use. Gas, electricity, or other energy sources are all capable of powering it.
  • Water storage tanks: In some cases, buildings may have water storage tanks to store water for various purposes, such as backup water supply or for areas with limited water availability.
  • Plumbing fixtures: These are the devices and appliances used for the distribution and use of water in a building, such as sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, and washing machines.
  • Drainage system: As mentioned earlier, the drainage system is an integral part of the plumbing system, consisting of drain pipes, traps, vents, cleanouts, and other components that remove wastewater and sewage from the building.

How are plumbing and drainage systems installed?

  1. Planning and design: The installation process begins with careful planning and design. A plumbing and drainage layout is created, considering factors such as the building’s structure, local building codes, water supply source, fixtures, and drainage requirements. Proper sizing of pipes, fixture placement, and slope calculations for drainage are determined during this phase.
  2. Obtaining permits: Before installation, necessary permits and approvals from local authorities need to be obtained. This ensures that the plumbing and drainage systems comply with local building codes and regulations.
  3. Site preparation: The construction site is prepared for the installation. This may involve excavation, trenching, or other necessary groundwork to create space for the plumbing and drainage lines.
  4. Water supply installation: The water supply lines are installed first. These pipes bring clean water into the building from the water source. The pipes are typically installed within walls, floors, or ceilings, depending on the building’s design. Valves, fittings, and connections are installed to control the water flow and enable future maintenance.
  5. Drainage system installation: After the water supply lines, the drainage system is installed. Drain pipes, fittings, and vents are carefully placed to ensure proper drainage and venting of wastewater. The pipes are sloped to allow for gravity-driven flow and prevent clogs. Traps are installed beneath plumbing fixtures to prevent sewer gases from entering the building.
  6. Fixture installation: Plumbing fixtures, such as sinks, toilets, showers, and bathtubs, are installed and connected to the water supply and drainage system. Faucets, valves, and other fixtures are also connected at this stage.
  7. Testing and inspections: Once the installation is complete, the plumbing and drainage systems undergo thorough testing to check for leaks, proper water flow, and drainage functionality. Inspections by local authorities may also be required to ensure compliance with building codes.
  8. Finishing and insulation: After passing the necessary inspections, the plumbing and drainage systems are typically concealed within walls, floors, or ceilings. Insulation may be added to prevent heat loss or condensation on pipes.

How do you tell if your drainage system needs repair?

  • Slow draining: If you notice that water is draining slowly from sinks, showers, or other plumbing fixtures, it could indicate a blockage in the drainage system. This could be due to accumulated debris, mineral buildup, or a damaged pipe.
  • Gurgling sounds: Unusual gurgling or bubbling sounds coming from drains, toilets, or plumbing fixtures can be a sign of a clogged or partially blocked drainage system. It indicates that air is trapped in the pipes, disrupting the normal flow of wastewater.
  • Foul odors: Persistent foul smells coming from drains, especially sewer-like odors, can indicate a problem with the drainage system. It could be due to a blockage, improper venting, or a damaged sewer line that is causing sewage to leak.
  • Water backup or overflow: if water backs up from drains, toilets, or other fixtures when you use them, it indicates a significant issue with the drainage system. This could be a sign of a blockage or a damaged pipe that is preventing the proper flow of wastewater.
  • Pools of water: If you notice pools of water forming around plumbing fixtures, particularly near sinks, showers, or toilets, it could indicate a leak in the drainage system. Leaking pipes can cause water to accumulate and lead to water damage or mold growth.
  • Changes in water levels: Fluctuations in the water levels in toilets or drains, such as water rising or lowering unexpectedly, can suggest a problem in the drainage system. It could be a sign of a blockage or improper venting.
  • Foundation cracks or sinkholes: In severe cases, issues with the drainage system can lead to more visible signs such as cracks in the foundation or the formation of sinkholes in the yard. This can occur when water is not properly draining away from the building, causing soil erosion and compromising the stability of the structure.

How should drains be maintained alongside plumbing?

Maintaining drains alongside your plumbing is crucial for the optimal functioning of your drainage system. Regular drain maintenance helps prevent clogs, blockages, and potential damage to your pipes. To keep your drains in good condition, there are several key practices to follow.

First, regular cleaning is essential. Clear away debris, hair, grease, and other substances that can accumulate in your drains. Use a drain cleaner or a mixture of hot water and vinegar to flush away the residue. However, it is advisable to avoid using harsh chemical drain cleaners as they can corrode and damage pipes over time.

Second, installing drain screens or strainers is highly beneficial. These devices help catch hair, food particles, and other debris before they enter the drain pipes. Regularly clean the screens to prevent blockages from occurring.

Furthermore, be mindful of what goes down your drains. Avoid pouring grease, oil, and fat down the sink, as they can solidify and cause clogs. Dispose of these substances in the trash instead. Similarly, properly dispose of food waste and avoid flushing items like wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, cotton balls, dental floss, or paper towels down the toilet.

Promptly addressing plumbing leaks is another crucial aspect of drain maintenance. Dripping water can lead to moisture buildup and damage to your drains. Regularly check for leaks under sinks, around toilets, and in other visible areas, and ensure they are repaired promptly.

Finally, consider scheduling periodic professional inspections of your plumbing and drainage systems. Skilled plumbers can identify potential issues, check for leaks, perform drain cleaning when necessary, and provide guidance on essential repairs or maintenance.

Can plumbers fix draining pipes?

Plumbers are skilled professionals who can fix drain pipes.

They have the expertise and knowledge to diagnose and repair issues with drain pipes, whether it involves clearing clogs, replacing damaged sections of pipes, or reconfiguring the drainage system.

Plumbers use various tools and techniques, such as drain snakes, hydro-jetting, pipe relining, excavation, and pipe replacement, to address drain pipe problems effectively.

Hiring a qualified plumber ensures that drainage pipe repairs are done correctly, helping to restore proper flow and functionality to your plumbing system.

What are some examples of a drainage system?

  • Residential drainage systems: In residential areas, common examples of drainage systems include gutters and downspouts that collect rainwater from roofs and direct it away from the house. Yard drainage systems may also be installed to prevent the pooling of water in the yard and redirect it to a proper drainage outlet.
  • Stormwater drainage systems: Stormwater drainage systems are designed to manage rainwater runoff in urban and suburban areas. They typically consist of catch basins, storm drains, underground pipes, and retention or detention ponds. These systems collect and convey rainwater from streets, parking lots, and other surfaces to prevent flooding and water damage.
  • Agricultural drainage systems: In agricultural settings, drainage systems are used to manage excess water and prevent waterlogging in fields. Techniques such as subsurface drainage, surface ditches, and contouring are employed to regulate water levels, improve soil conditions, and facilitate crop growth.
  • Industrial drainage systems: Industrial facilities often have specialized drainage systems to manage wastewater and industrial runoff. These systems include separators, oil interceptors, and treatment units to remove contaminants before the water is discharged into municipal sewers or the environment.
  • Roadway drainage systems: Roadway drainage systems are designed to collect and remove water from road surfaces to prevent flooding and maintain safe driving conditions. They typically include curbs, gutters, catch basins, and underground pipes to direct water away from the road.
  • Sports field drainage systems: Sports fields, such as soccer fields or golf courses, require efficient drainage systems to maintain playability. Subsurface drainage systems, including perforated pipes and gravel or sand layers, are installed to remove excess water from the playing surface.

What are some examples of a plumbing system?

  • Residential plumbing system: This encompasses the plumbing system within a house or apartment. It includes water supply lines, fixtures (such as sinks, toilets, showers, and bathtubs), drainage pipes, vent pipes, and plumbing connections. It also incorporates the hot water heater, water storage tanks (if applicable), and any other plumbing-related components within the residential property.
  • Commercial plumbing system: Commercial buildings, such as offices, restaurants, hotels, and retail spaces, have plumbing systems designed to accommodate larger water demands. These systems typically include water supply lines, fixtures, drainage pipes, venting, and may include additional features like commercial-grade kitchen equipment, fire sprinkler systems, and specialized plumbing for specific needs.
  • Industrial plumbing system: Industrial facilities often have complex plumbing systems to support their unique requirements. These can include extensive networks of water supply lines, high-capacity pumps, specialized fixtures and equipment, process piping for industrial processes, and wastewater treatment systems.
  • Public plumbing systems: Public buildings and facilities, such as schools, hospitals, government offices, and sports stadiums, have plumbing systems tailored to handle high usage and specific needs. These systems may include water supply lines, large-scale restroom facilities, drinking fountains, medical gas systems, and plumbing for commercial kitchens and laundry facilities.
  • High-rise plumbing systems: Plumbing systems in tall buildings and skyscrapers face unique challenges due to increased water pressure, vertical pipe distribution, and multiple floors. These systems incorporate booster pumps, pressure regulation devices, water storage tanks, and specialized pipe designs to ensure adequate water supply and proper drainage throughout the building.
  • Industrial process plumbing systems: Certain industries, such as manufacturing plants or food processing facilities, have plumbing systems specifically designed to support their production processes. These systems may involve specialized equipment, process piping, and stringent requirements for hygiene, sanitation, and waste management.

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Author: Logan

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