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Bathroom— it is an important part of any home. We use it on a daily basis, but have you ever thought about where all these plumbing hardware started out? Well, if you are one of those people who take toilets and running water for granted, you might be quite surprised to know that plumbing has a really interesting and long backstory.

Here’s a detailed timeline of how plumbing for home came into existence:

Ancient Plumbing System: 4000 – 3000 B.C.

The Indus Valley Civilization built the very first pipe systems to carry water from one place to another. Buildings here had bathing areas and wells with drains in the floor as well as bathrooms with septic tanks which is very much similar to our modern-day bathrooms.

Egyptian Plumbing: 2500 B.C.

The Egyptians developed copper pipes to build sophisticated bathrooms with sewage and irrigation systems inside their pyramids. Because they believed that their dead needs clothing, food, and other necessary items in the afterlife, the Egyptians also installed bathrooms in tombs. Also around this time, the sitting toilets appeared in the Harappa civilization which is now India.


The Advent of Bathtubs: 1500 – 1000 B.C.

On the Island of Crete under the reign of King Minos, people of Crete created elaborate drainage and disposal systems with underground channels. Around this time period, archeologists also discovered a bathtub resembling cast-iron in America.

The First Shower Idea: 710 B.C.

The Assyrian King, Sargon the Great, invented the very first shower by having his slaves climb ladders and pour water over him while he bathed.

Plumbing during Roman Civilizations: 500 B.C. – 455 A.D.

The most significant accomplishment in plumbing was from the Roman civilization. The Roman Empire developed complex plumbing systems that carried water from the mountains to the city. It was distributed via underground bronze and lead supply lines and piping systems. As a matter of fact, the term “plumbing” originated from the Latin word “Plumus” which means lead.


Around 52 A.D., Rome boasted at least 220 miles of pipes, aqueducts and water channels used to supply public wells, homes, and baths.

The First Flushing Toilet: 1596

The godson of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Harrington designed the very first flushing toilet complete with a wooden seat as a gift for his godmother and was first used in the Richmond Palace.

The French Connection: 1644                     

A cast-iron main plumbing line construction in France was ordered by King Louis XIV. This line carried water 15 miles away from a plumbing station to the fountains of the palace and also other surrounding areas.

Flush Toilets Patent: 1775

Alexander Cummings, a Scottish inventor developed the prototype for the modern toilet. The water closet by Sir John Harrington can flush, however, it did not have a water trap. Alexander Cumming’s prototype, however, has an S trap (a sliding valve between the trap and the bowl) which allowed water to stay in the bowl. Therefore, the bowl can be easily cleaned after each use and the water no longer smells like sewage,

Shower System Re-Invented: 1810

The earliest modern style showers were from the English Regency which pumped water continually from a lower basin to a cistern above the bather’s head using the very same wastewater.

Water Systems in Philadelphia: 1815

Philadelphia was among the first city to undertake safe water supply as a governance issue. Water pipelines that ran throughout the breadth and length of the city supplying both free and paid supply. The first water system of the city was located at the Centre Square. Drawing water from the Schuylkill River was through the power of steam turbines. However, this system brings numerous drawback, thus an improved system was developed in 1815 which served until 1909.

Tremont Hotel’s Public Toilets: 1829

The Tremont Hotel in Boston was the very first hotel to feature an indoor plumbing for its guests. Isaiah Rogers, an American architect was commissioned to build the interiors and 8 water closets were provided on the ground floor and bathrooms were installed in the basement area.

White House Plumbing: 1833

The White House got its first running water on the first floor which was considered as a luxury back then. Plumbing upstairs was then introduced when President Franklin Fierce takes office.

National Public Health Act: 1848

The National Public Health Act was implemented in England, becoming a role model in plumbing standards and codes for the rest of the world.

America’s Fully Functional Modern Plumbing Systems: 1856

The first integrated sewer system was built in Chicago. This is to overcome the rising problem of dumping waste in the Chicago River.



Ceramic Flush Toilet: 1870              

An update to the modern toilet, Thomas Crapper invented a valve and siphon design which revolutionized the modern concept of plumbing.

Plumbing Standards and Codes: 1930

Uniform plumbing codes were passed along with acceptable manufacturing standards for every plumbing products.

Modification of Materials: 1966

Because of the shortage of copper after the war, plastic and non-metallic piping systems were introduced for toilets.

The International Code Council: 2003

This council was formed through the union of 3 model building code agencies. It helps plumbing companies like plumbers in Cape Town, to ensure all future endeavors and developments follow a strict enforced standard and code for all projects.