Durham Or Screw Pipe Work Pipe And Fittings

"Durham" or "screw pipe" work is the name used to denote that the job is installed by the use of wrought-iron or steel screw pipe. We speak of a "cast-iron job" meaning that cast-iron pipe was used for the piping. A completely different method of work is used when screw pipe is employed for the wastes and vents. When screw pipe is to be used or considered for use, it is well to know something concerning the various makes of screw pipe. Nothing but galvanized pipe is ever used. The value of steel screw pipe and wrought-iron screw pipe should be studied, and every person interested should, if possible, understand how these different pipes are made and how the material of which they are composed is made. In some places one pipe is better than another and a study of their make-up would enlighten the user and allow him to use the best for his peculiar conditions. The maker's name should always be on the pipe. The following table shows the sizes, weights, and thicknesses of screw pipe:

Size Thickness No. threads

per inch
11⁄4 0.140 111⁄2
11⁄2 0.145 111⁄2
2 0.154 111⁄2
21⁄2 0.204 8
3 0.217 8
31⁄2 0.226 8
4 0.237 8
5 0.259 8
6 0.280 8

Screw pipe work came into common use with the advance of modern steel structures. Some difficulty had been experienced in getting the cast-iron pipe joints tight and to keep the pipe so anchored that it would not crack. The screw pipe was found to answer all of the requirements of modern structures and therefore has been used extensively. The life of screw pipe is not as long as extra heavy cast-iron pipe. This is the only serious objection to screw pipe, which must be renewed after a term of years, while extra heavy cast iron lasts indefinitely. Screw pipe is never used underground. When piping is required underground, extra heavy cast-iron pipe is used.


The pipe used in Durham work is galvanized extra heavy, or standard wrought-iron, or steel pipe. It is almost impossible to recognize wrought-iron from steel pipe without the aid of a chemical or a magnifying glass. To test the pipe to distinguish its base, take a sharp file and file through the surface of the pipe that is to be tested. If the pipe is steel, under a magnifying glass the texture of the filed surface will appear to be smooth and have small irregular-shaped grains, and there will also be an appearance of compactness. If the pipe is iron, the texture will have the appearance of being ragged and will show streaks of slag or black. When screw pipe is cut there is always left a large burr on the inside of the pipe. This burr greatly reduces the bore of the pipe and is a source of stoppage in waste pipes. After the pipe is cut this burr should be reamed out thoroughly. One of the strong points of screw pipe is the strength of each joint. Care should therefore be taken to see that perfect threads are cut on the pipe and that the threads of the fittings are perfect. The dies should be set right and not varied on each joint. There should be plenty of oil used when threads are cut so that the thread will be clean and sharp. The follower or guide on stocks should be the same size as the pipe that is being threaded, otherwise a crooked thread will result. If a pipe-threading machine is used, the pipe is set squarely between the jaws of the vise that holds the pipe in place. When cutting a thread on a long length of pipe, the end sticking out from the machine must be supported firmly so that no strain will come on the machine as the pipe turns. It is necessary to cut crooked threads sometimes on the pipe to allow the pipe pitch for drainage or to bring the pipe into alignment where fitting would take up too much room. To cut a crooked thread on a piece of pipe, simply leave the follower out of the stock or put in the size larger. The dies not having a guide will cut a crooked thread. Piping should be run with as few threads as possible. With a thorough knowledge of and the intelligent use of fittings, a minimum number of threads will result.

The pipes in a building are run in compact parallel lines in chases designed especially for them. The tendency is to confine the pipes to certain localities as much as possible. This makes a very neat job and in case repairs are needed, the work and trouble incurred will be confined to one section.


The fittings used in screw pipe work are cast-iron recess type (see Fig. 54). The fittings are so made that the inside bores of the pipe and the fittings come in direct line with each other, thus making a smooth inside surface at all bends. The fittings are all heavily galvanized. All fittings should be examined on the inside for any lumps of metal of sufficient size to catch solid waste matter, and these must be removed or the fitting discarded. All 90° bends, whether Ts or elbows, are tapped to give the pipe that connects with them a pitch of at least 1⁄4 inch to the foot. Except where obligatory, 90° fittings should not be used. To make a bend of 90° a Y-branch, a nipple and a 45° bend should be used, or two 45° bends will make a long easy sweep of the drainage pipes and reduce the possibility of stoppage.

Y-branches are inserted every 30 feet at least to allow for a clean-out which can be placed in the branch of the fitting. When a clean-out is placed an iron plug should not be used. These plugs are not removed very often and an iron plug will rust in and be almost impossible to get out. Brass clean-out plugs are used and are easily taken out.

At times it is necessary to connect cast iron and wrought iron, or in a line where a union could be used if the pipe were not a waste pipe, a tucker fitting is used. This fitting is threaded on one end and has a socket on the other to allow for caulking. To get a good idea of all the fittings in general use, the reader should get a catalogue from one of the fitting manufacturers and a survey of it will give the names and sizes of the fittings. However, I show a few common ones. In the writer's opinion, the studying of the catalogue would be of more benefit than a description of fittings at this point. The sizes used and the methods employed to vent the waste-pipe systems are the same as in cast-iron work.


The hanging of screw pipe is a very essential point. The taking of the strain off from a fitting or line of pipe by the use of a hanger is the means of avoiding serious trouble after a job is completed. On horizontal runs hangers are placed not more than 8 feet apart. In a building constructed of wood, the hangers are secured to the joists. In a building constructed of steel beams and concrete the hangers are secured to the steel beams by means of I-beam hangers that clamp on the beams; also in the case of concrete the hangers are extended through the floor and a T is put on the hanger on top of the cement floor; an iron bar or a short piece of smaller pipe run through the T holds the hanger in place and secures it rigidly. The finished floor is laid over the hanger so that it does not show from the top. Hangers on the vertical lines should be placed at every joint and under each fitting. To have the pipe in true alignment, the hangers must be hung and placed in line. Every riser line must have an extra support at the base to avoid any settling of the stack which will crack the fittings and break fixture connections.


The proper installation of screw pipe work requires getting correct and accurate measurements. Every plumber is or should be able to get correct center to center, center to end, end to end, center to back, and end to back measurements. In Durham work 45° angles are continually occurring. To get these measurements correctly, the following table has been compiled as used by the author and found to be correct. The reader should memorize it so that it may be used without referring to the book.


Soil pipe Screw pipe Multiplier
1⁄6  bend 60 1.15
1⁄8    " 45 1.41
1⁄12  " 30 2.00
1⁄16  " 221⁄2 2.61
1⁄32  " 111⁄4 5.12
1⁄64  " 55⁄8 10.22

Before any measurements are taken, the lines of pipe are laid out and the position of each fitting known. As I have stated before, the plumber must look ahead with his work. He must have the ability of practically seeing the pipe in place before the work is started. This requires experience and judgment. Before the measurements are taken and the pipe cut consideration must be given to the fact that the fittings and pipes must be screwed into position. Therefore, "can the fitting on the pipe be placed where it is laid out when this is considered?" must be one of the many questions a plumber should ask himself. Allowance must be made for the chain tongs to swing. Whenever possible, a fitting is made up on the pipe while the pipe is in the vise.

Fig. 76.--The offset is B or 12 inches center to center. The offset is  made using 45 degree fittings. Therefore the length of A from the center  of one fitting to the center of the other is B × 1.41 = 12 × 1.41 = 16.92  inches. Fig. 76.—The offset is B or 12 inches center to center. The offset is made using 45 degree fittings. Therefore the length of A from the center of one fitting to the center of the other is B × 1.41 = 12 × 1.41 = 16.92 inches.


The fixture connections when screw pipe is used are necessarily different than when cast-iron pipe is used. A brass nipple is wiped on a piece of lead pipe and then screwed into the fitting left for the closet connection. The lead is flanged over above the floor and the closet set on it. The lead is soldered to a brass flange. The brass flange is secured to the floor and then the closet bowl secured to the brass flange. Another method employed is to screw a brass flange into the fitting so that when it is made up the flange will come level with the floor; the closet bowl is then secured to this flange. There are a number of patented floor flanges for closet bowl connections that can be used to advantage. Slop sinks have practically the same connections as the closets. Other fixtures such as the urinal, lavatory, and bath, can be connected with a short piece of lead wiped on a solder nipple, or the trimmings for the fixture can be had with brass having iron pipe size threads, and the connection can then be made directly with the outlet on the waste line. This is a very general way to describe the connections, but space will not allow a detailed description of these connections. It is always well to allow for short lead connections for fixtures so that the lead will give if the stack settles.

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