For thousands of years, humans have had to deal with the problem of procuring safe drinking water and getting rid of their wastewater. Indoor plumbing has a long history, but the fixtures and pipes as they’re known today are relatively recent inventions. Read on to learn about when indoor plumbing was invented, including each of the fixtures you probably have in your Niles, OH, home.

Early Attempts at Indoor Plumbing

In different parts of the world, people created rudimentary indoor plumbing systems. Brick latrines were found in homes and dated back to 3,200 B.C. in Mesopotamia. Clay pipes were used in several Mesopotamian cities to deliver river water to homes. In the Indus Valley, home plans included special rooms for toilets and bathing. These homes had terra cotta pipes that delivered rainwater from the roof to bathtubs and indoor toilets. Anthropologists have found evidence of an early flush toilet in a fancy home dated to about 1,800 B.C. in ancient Greece. The Roman Empire included extensive indoor plumbing systems in private homes of the wealthy.


Pipes are the oldest part of indoor plumbing systems. They have been in use for more than 1,000 years in different parts of the world. The word “plumbing” originates from the Latin word plumbum, which means “lead.” Lead pipes were used in the times of the Roman Empire all the way through the 20th century. In some areas, clay or cast iron pipes were used. In London, wood pipes were common in homes in the 16th and 17th centuries. Copper pipes have been the standard for new indoor plumbing systems since the 1950s.


Baths are some of the earliest indoor plumbing fixtures. The Middle East was the first part of the world known to have built indoor baths. Most of the early ones were in the form of central bathhouses. They were often located close to Islamic temples. In Crete, an ancient bathtub made of ceramic was found and dated back to 3,000 B.C. Cast iron clawfoot bathtubs became popular in the 1800s. By the 1960s, most bathtubs were made of fiberglass. In 1979, the Wheeler brothers perfected acrylic bathtubs.


In the old Middle East city of Fustat, multi-story buildings with flush toilets were common in the middle ages. In 1775, Alexander Cummings received a patent for the S-bend pipe for use in indoor flush toilets. Thomas Crapper received a patent in 1880 for a U-shaped trap for indoor flush toilets. Crapper’s invention is still in use in today’s toilets.

Sinks and Faucets

Early sinks were made of clay or wood bowls with a pitcher. They were kept on top of a cabinet. Once homes were outfitted with pipes, modern sinks began to evolve. The earliest modern sinks were made of ceramic for the basin. Enamel over cast iron was also an early type of sink, and those materials are still popular today. Modern sinks first emerged around 1820. Faucets were patented by Thomas Campbell of Canada in 1880. He invented the mixer tap that allowed hot and cold water to mix as it flowed out of the faucet. Campbell’s invention is still in use today.

Water Heaters

In 1889, Edwin Ruud, a Norwegian inventor living in Philadelphia, PA, patented the modern water heater. His was the first storage-tank water heater powered by natural gas. In 1929, Stiebel-Elton invented the first electric water heater. It was also the first tankless water heater.


In 1767, British inventor William Feetham invented the first modern shower. It was powered by a hand pump. However, it made use of a closed-loop system, and it recycled dirty water back through the showerhead. In the 1870s, French physician and inventor François Merry Delabost invented the first stand-alone shower that did not use recycled water. A steam engine heated the water in just a few minutes. Modern showers became common in homes built in the 1940s. Most homes at that time included a bathtub and a separate shower. In the 1950s, combination bathtubs and showers became common.

A To Z Dependable Services is the trusted plumbing installation team in Niles. You can also rely on our plumbers for repair and maintenance services. Our heating and air conditioning maintenance, repair, and replacement services are designed with your comfort and safety in mind. We also offer bathroom renovations and whole-home replumbing. For more information about when indoor plumbing was invented, get in touch with us at A To Z Dependable Services any time.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.