The Evolution of Rooter Services: A Historical Perspective

San Rafael

(415) 942-6565

Santa Rosa

(707) 452-3464

Our plumbing systems are most likely not a common thought in our minds as we go about our day. But we interact with them in many different ways throughout each and every day of our lives. The evolution of plumbing systems is an essential part of human evolution, since advancements in plumbing have made it possible to eliminate a lot of disease and contamination, therefore lengthening human lifespans. But how have drain and rooter plumbing evolved to what they are today? In this article, we will look at the history of plumbing as a whole and how we arrived at the modern plumbing system. We will also look at how the practices of drain and rooter services have evolved from simple plumbing solutions to the advanced techniques used today.

Plumbing Systems Through the Ages

Early Ages

Plumbing systems have been around since ancient times, as early as 3000 BCE, where tile drains would carry waste to a series of baked clay pipes that would then deposit it into a river. The higher class would have indoor toilets as well as separate bathrooms in Mesopotamia. The oldest flushing toilet was even invented between 2000 and 1700 BCE on the Mediterranean island of Crete. The first sewer system was created on Crete as well, with the natural slope of the land being used to carry drainage from lavatories through pipes made out of terra cotta that were designed in a tapered fashion to prevent sediment buildup.

In Egypt, the first copper pipes were created for the early piping systems, and they are the only civilization that created bathrooms for the dead. Mohenjo-Daro is the town credited with developing the very first sanitation systems in the Indus Valley Civilization, since it is believed that cleanliness was extremely important to them.

As time went on, eventually Rome became the most advanced society in regards to plumbing systems, with their use of lead pipes and aqueducts to provide indoor plumbing. They had access to both hot water and cold water through their plumbing as well as a sewage system. Public baths were common in the Roman Empire, and these systems carried water from a fresh water source using gravity. Some believe that the Roman engineers incorporating lead piping into their plumbing systems was a key contributor to the fall of the Roman Empire, since the lead levels in the water made many women and children sick, to the point where miscarriages and infant deaths rose significantly.

Inventions of Plumbing Fixtures

In 1596, the godson of Queen Elizabeth, John Harington, invented the first flushable toilet. This toilet was installed in the bathroom, or “water closet,” in Richmond Palace at the Queen’s request. The mid-1600s followed with early settlers creating the first city water system for domestic use as well as fighting fires. Later, in 1664, King Louis XIV ordered the very first water main, which was made out of cast iron. Through this piping, water was supplied to the town and the palace. In the centuries that followed, many more important plumbing system advancements began to take place, such as the English regency shower, the first hotel with indoor plumbing (including toilets and running water), plumbing in the White House, and the first cast iron bathtub. Cast iron pipe systems were an advancement for a more durable plumbing system that could supply water pressure that was much better than it had been with the wooden pipe systems.

The design for toilets began to advance too, with the invention of pipes that could stop the sewer gas smell from coming back up, and a valve that could refill the bowl. The toilet continued to be improved for many decades. The blueprint for the toilet we know today was not invented until the 1880s.

Hollow logs were eventually used in New York City to carry water for firefighters, which they accessed by drilling holes into the logs, sending the water shooting out so they could use it to put out fires.

The Modern Plumbing System

The first available water for the public was in Philadelphia in 1815, where a system of water wheels, a steam engine, and a dam brought water from the Schuylkill River to homes and businesses. The first municipal reservoir in 1835 used water from the Croton River to deliver 72 million gallons of fresh water to Manhattan. In 1851, the first public toilets were made available, with patrons having to pay one penny each to use them.

A big step for modern plumbing was the first sewer system in America in 1855. This sewer system was designed in an attempt to eradicate the issue of large amounts of waste being dumped into the Chicago River. A canal was dug in order to direct the water in a different direction so that it would not flow into Lake Michigan.

After this, with the invention of electricity, plumbing fixtures such as water heaters and fully plumbed kitchens in private homes became commonplace. Modern plumbing products for residential homes evolved dramatically and made it easier and safer to access running water as well as dispose of wastewater.

1857 even saw the first wide distribution of toilet paper, sold in packages of flat sheets and deemed the “greatest necessity of the age.”

Health Codes and Further Advancements

World War II made things increasingly difficult for the plumbing industry since many materials were restricted, like steel, iron, and copper pipes. Instead, people turned to new materials like cast iron and plastic, which ended up improving modern plumbing. The 1950s also saw the use of the first polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, pipes used for plumbing.

Plumbing codes were also an important part of the advancement of modern plumbing. The National Public Health Act was created in 1848, which gave instructions on water safety in order to improve public health after a rise in cholera outbreaks. The first plumbing code in America was created in the late 1920s so that plumbers had to follow specific regulations when installing and repairing plumbing systems. In 1992, the Energy Policy Act was passed, which attempted to reduce the water flow rates that go into plumbing fixtures. Later on, in 2022, we had the emergency water conservation in California, where potable water could not be overused for things like watering grass.

Beginnings of Rooter Services

Rooter Machine Invention

Now that all of these sewer lines and personal drain systems are in place, there is a need to keep them properly maintained. In 1933, the very first rooter machine was invented using a washing machine motor and roller skate wheels. This mechanized drain cleaner uses a cable with blades that spin to cut tree roots lodged within pipes. This was so revolutionary because it was a machine that was able to clear away roots and resume smooth drainage without having to do any digging to get to the pipes. The famous Roto-Rooter name came from the invention of this tool. Samuel Blanc, the inventor of this device, knew that it could be used for plumbing system maintenance everywhere and therefore created the Roto-Rooter corporation, which became the staple for rooter services.

Over time, more and more plumbing companies adopted the rooter machine for drain cleaning services, until it became a classic tool for drain cleaning.

Advancements in Rooter Tools

More advancements in the drain and rooter business include the invention of the hydrojetter. Hydrojetting also makes it easier to clear blockages within drains, this time while also cleaning the walls of the pipe from heavy buildup, so that debris blockages don’t happen so often. Hydrojetters can be smaller, handheld devices, or they can be mounted on a drain cleaning truck for extreme clogs.

Video inspection with high-tech cameras is another important evolution in drain and rooter services, since this method allows plumbers to see firsthand exactly what the clog looks like in the pipe and the precise location of it, eliminating a lot of guesswork.

A recent advancement is trenchless sewer repair and replacement when it comes to drain and rooter plumbing. This method eliminates the need for excavation, saving a large amount of time and money. The plumbers are able to create a hole on either side of the damaged pipe and insert the new pipe or new pipe lining through these holes. The material is able to follow the direction of the old pipe in order to settle in place. If there are roots invading a pipe, this can cause extreme damage to sewer lines since the roots will often create holes in the pipes in order to break through.

Plumbing systems have advanced tremendously over the years, with thousands of developments that have all led to the modern plumbing we use today. The reason we have flushing toilets, clean drinking water, and rooter tools to safely clear our drains from blockages is all due to the ingenuity of those in the history of plumbing who took all the small but important steps towards developing the plumbing that we are all able to have at our convenience today. While modern plumbing may seem like an insignificant part of everyday life now, looking back on just a brief summary of the evolution of plumbing devices shows how vital modern plumbing advancements have been for not only our convenience, but also our health and survival.

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San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464



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San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464