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The Fascinating History of White House Plumbing

When the construction of the White House was finished in 1800, it was just as outdated as any other building by modern standards. Electricity hadn’t been discovered yet. Plumbing was rudimentary at best. HVAC service consisted of stoking a fire in the winter and opening a window in the summer. However, through all of these years, the White House has stood as a dwelling for the nation’s president. 

When budgets and technology allowed, the White House was slowly updated with modern amenities until it was the marvel of technology that exists today. This President’s Day, celebrate with some local Orlando plumbers as they share information about the Presidential mansion and its plumbing. 

The White House Gets Water Service

By the 1800s, water was drawn by hand from wells and transported to wherever it needed to go. This process was labor-intensive, but people had no concept of other means. In the late 1820s, the first pump was installed specifically to serve the White House and nearby Treasury Office. However, it was only installed because President John Quincy Adams wanted closer water service to irrigate his garden. 

The next president, Andrew Jackson, had the water plumber moved indoors to make filling tubs and basins easier on the servant staff. Apparently, the budget was tight because the plumbers used hollowed logs for pipes instead of iron, which was more expensive. 

By 1853, then-President Franklin Pierce had installed a bathroom on the first and second floors. There were no toilets, but the washing rooms had hot and cold water available from the tap instead of being hauled in a kettle. 

Privies to Potties: The First Toilet

President Millard Fillmore is credited with bringing flush toilets to the White House. To finish updating the bathing rooms that Franklin Pierce commissioned, Fillmore added flush toilets to the rooms. He is also credited with updating the septic system that served the White House.


While it’s unclear to what degree the septic system served the White House’s needs, it is well documented that into the 1830s, presidents were using privies on the White House Lawn and chamber pots to handle their business. 

More Fun Facts About White House History

  • President Richard Nixon had a special task force of “plumbers” whose job was to stop leaks of classified material to the press regarding the Vietnam War. 
  • President George W. Bush had solar water heating panels installed on the White House roof to heat water for the pool and spa. 
  • When President John Adams moved into the Executive mansion for the first time, he complained about the lack of amenities. 
  • Retrofitting the 150-year-old building with new utilities took such a toll on the structure of the White House that it was completely gutted and remodeled in the 1950s under Harry Truman. It is rumored that he got the idea because he noticed his bathtub sinking into the floor. 
  • President William H. Taft didn’t get stuck in the White House bathroom but he did commission the building of a giant tub to accommodate his large girth. 

About Shamrock Plumbing and Drain Cleaning Inc.

Shamrock Plumbing and Drain Cleaning Inc. serves the people of Orlando with award-winning customer service. They never charge extra for after-hours or overtime calls and offer free estimates. Call anytime, day or night, for fast turnarounds and friendly plumbing service in Orlando.

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