Plumbing terms can be confusing to the average person. These terms can seem like a foreign language and discussions with a plumber can leave homeowners with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Becoming familiar with the language of plumbing can be helpful in understanding and communicating with plumbing professionals when problems arise.

Below is some helpful vocabulary as you become fluent in this new language.

Access panel: An access panel is a door, panel or piece of plywood that can be easily removed to provide access to a shut-off valve, drain or other plumbing part in order to make a repair.

Angle stop: An angle stop is a shutoff valve between the water supply and plumbing fixture. It is used to shut off water flow while you repair the connected item.

Anode rod: An aluminum or magnesium rod placed inside a gas or electric water heater tank to help protect against corrosion.

Auger: A drain auger, also known as a plumbing snake or drain snake, is designed for removing clogs and obstructions from a drain. Drain augers are a long tool with an appearance similar to a snake that can be fed down a drain or toilet to remove a blockage.

Backwater valve: A backwater valve prevents disposed sewage from reentering the home.

Ball check valve: A ball check valve is a type of backflow preventer. The ball check valve is placed on a water line so water flows in one direction.

Ballcock: The ballcock controls the flow of water in a gravity-operated toilet tank. When the toilet is flushed, the circular float will drop and open the ballcock. This results in water being distributed in the tank. As the water rises, the float rises to the level that shuts of the ballcock.

Bleed: The process of releasing excess air from a pipe. It’s typically accomplished by opening a valve and can also be used to remove excess air from a hose or another tube.

Check valve: The check valve prevents backflow. The check valve is installed on a pipe to allow water flow in one direction.

Cleanout plug: The cleanout plug is located in a trap or drain pipe and provides access to the drain line for clearing any blockage in the pipes.

Closet auger: See definition for auger above.

CPVC: CPVP stands for chlorinated poly-vinyl chloride pipe, a type of plastic.

Dip tube: The dip tube sends cold water to the bottom of the water heater tank.

Discharge drain: A drain that discharges water into a drain system or into the ground through a channel.

Drain: A drain is the primary vessel or conduit for unwanted water or waste liquids to be flumed away, either to a more useful area, funneled into a receptacle, or run into sewers or stormwater mains as waste discharge to be released or processed.

Fall: The fall, also known as flow or pitch, refers to the slope needed to create proper drainage in pipes.

Faucet screen: A small metal screen used to catch small debris in the water system, found in the faucet arm nozzle. Water hoses for washing machines may also have a screen to prevent debris from damaging the water valves.

Faucet: A sink fixture that controls water flow. Most faucets allow the user to modify the temperature of the water by changing the ratio of hot and cold. Faucets may come with either two knobs or with a single lever handle that changes the temperature.

Fitting: A device designed to control and guide the flow of water. This includes faucets, shower heads, shutoff valves and shower valves.

Fixture: A fixture refers to the plumbing device that provides water and/or disposal. Fixtures include toilets, sinks and showers.

Flapper valve: The hinged, movable part of a type of shut off valve that shuts off flow. One ype of flapper is located at the bottom of a toilet water tank. It is raised to start the flush cycle and closes when the tank is empty, allowing it to refill

Float ball: The float ball is the plastic ball attached to the ballcock. The amount of water in the tank is determined by the float ball’s placement.

Float valve: A type of control valve that shuts off water at a specific level or capacity. A float valve controls the water in a toilet tank. One form of operation has a hollow ball, mounted by a connecting rod to the valve. As the ball rises with the water level, the valve closes until water flow is completely stopped.

Floor flange: The floor flange, also known as a closet flange, connects a toilet to the sewer line.

Gallons per minute (GPM or gpm): A measure of the rate at which water flows through a fixture or fitting at a certain pressure. It is measured by the number of gallons flowing from the device in one minute at a given water supply pressure.

Gallons per flush (GPF or gpf): A measure of the total volume of water required to flush a toilet, measured in gallons.

Galvanized steel (piping): A type of water piping, coated with a zinc compound. The zinc acts as a sacrificial metal and slows down the corrosion process.

Garbage disposal: An appliance attached to the drain system, usually under the kitchen sink, that chops up food waste, allowing easier flow through the drain system.

Gas cock: The gas cock on a main gas line allows for the gas to be shut off.

Gate valve: The gate valve controls the flow of liquids in pipes.

Gravity operated toilet: A gravity operated toilet relies on downward pressure of water in a toilet tank to flush. Gravity operate toilets often have ballcocks in their tank.

Gray water: Gray water is any waste water that comes from common fixtures. This does not include toilets.

Horizontal branch: The horizontal branch runs from plumbing fixtures to a waste stack.

Horizontal run: Horizontal run is the distance liquid travels from the entry point and exit of a pipe.

Hose: A flexible rubber or plastic tube for carrying water.

Hose bibb: A hose bibb is an outdoor faucet.

Low-flow: A water fixture that produces a lower water flow at the outlet.

Main line: The main line supplies water from the water meter at street level to the pipes around your home.

Main drainpipe: The piping where the home’s drain piping system enters the septic system or underground drainpipe.

Nipple: A nipple is a short pipe that connects couplings and other fittings.

Outdoor faucet: A hose bibb located outside the home or building. The connection threads will be designed for hose fittings.

Overflow: A type of drain used to prevent overfilling of a fixture. For example, the small hole near the top of the bathroom sink connects to the sink drain, preventing the basin from flooding onto the floor.

P-trap: A sink drainpipe designed in the shape of a “P.” It runs from the sink and down through the floor to the main drain piping. It is designed to trap a small quantity of water in the pipe to keep sewer odors from entering the dwelling. An S-trap is similar, but exits the room through the wall instead of the floor.

Pilot light: A small gas flame used to ignite a larger burner when a gas valve is turned on. If the pilot is always lit, it is called a standing pilot. On demand pilots are ignited by a sparking device when needed.

Pipe threads: Pipe threads allow pipes to be coupled to fixture or pipe couplings. Pipe threads should have Teflon pipe tape, pipe thread compound or a combination of both applied to the threads to prevent leakage under pressure.

Plumber: A technician that specializes in plumbing installation and repairs. Plumbers are usually licensed by the state or other governing authority, have been educated in various aspects of the plumbing industry and are qualified to make repairs or handle new installations. Plumbers may work on all types of plumbing or may specialize in certain areas, such as residential, commercial or industrial plumbing.

Plunger: A cupped, suction device on a handle that is used to clear a clogged drain. Plungers are commonly used for clogged toilets.

Porcelain enamel: A coating used on metal fixtures, such as cast iron sinks and bathtubs. Porcelain enamel gives metal plumbing fixtures their colors and desirable glossy surfaces.

Pressure gauge: A measuring device used to determine the pressure in a piping system.

Pressure tank: A pressure tank ispart of a well pump assembly that reserves water for use. The tank contains a bladder that puts pressure on the water in the tank. When a faucet or spigot is opened, the pressure forces the water through the piping. The tank starts the pump when pressure lowers to a predetermined level. When the valve is closed, the pump continues until the water has reached the upper pressure limit.

PRV or pressure reducing valve: PRV, or pressure reducing valve, is a valve that is installed directly on the main water line. The pressure reducing valve regulates the amount of water entering from the water companies supply to normalize water pressure for home use.

PVC: PVC pipes are plastic pipes that are used for drainage, waste and vent systems.

Rain barrel: A tank or container used to collect rainwater or roof runoff water.

Reset button (garbage disposal): A button on the bottom of the garbage disposal that is used to reset an overload device on the disposal. The overload trips when the disposal becomes locked up, preventing motor damage and potential fire hazards.

Rim holes: Rim holes are small holes around the toilet bowl. Water flows from the rim holes to refill the toilet bowl.

Septic tank: A septic tank is a sewage treatment system for homes with no connection to local utility sewage pipes. Bacteria decompose the waste inside the tank.

Sewer connection: The place where a dwelling sanitary sewer system connects to the city or municipality sewer system.

Shutoff valve: A valve that stops the flow of water in the pipe. Shutoff valves are usually found under the sink or beside the toilet. The valves shut off water supplied to those fixtures and faucets.

Sink basin: The bowl of the sink.

Sink plunger: A type of small plunger that fits over a sink drain. Sink plungers are used to unstop clogs.

Solar water heater: A water heating system that uses piping that is heated through solar energy. Solar water heaters use the sun for all or part of the water heating process and can be tied into a conventional water heater for backup.

Spigot: A common term for a hose bibb.

Straight stop valve: A straight stop valve is a straight shutoff valve used to close off water supply during repairs.

Sump pump: A sump pump is used in basements that flood often. The sump pump sits in an area that accumulates the water and then it pushes the water outside the home.

Supply line: A supply line is a line that carries water from the main line into a plumbing fixture.

Temperature and pressure valve: The temperate and pressure relief valve is used to release excess heat or pressure in a water tank.

Tailpiece: The tailpiece is a pipe that runs between a fixture and trap.

Tankless water heater: A water heater that does not contain a holding tank. Water is heated on demand once the unit detects water flow. These units are usually heated by natural gas burners.

Toilet plunger: A plunger that is inserted into the drain at the bottom of the bowl to unclog a toilet.

Trap: The trap is a curved section of drain line that prevents sewer odor from entering the home. All plumbing fixtures have a “P” trap, except for a toilet that has an “S” trap.

Valve: A fitting that opens or closes allowing a liquid flow to be started, stopped, and regulated. Valves are used in faucets and showers and control the mix of hot and cold water to achieve desired water temperatures.

Vent: The vent is a pipe that allows air into the drain system.

Vent stack: The vent stack, also known as a stink pipe, releases gas and odors outside the home.

Water hammer: The water hammer is a loud noise and vibration caused by a sudden surge, or halt, of water in the pipes.

Water heater gauge: Gauges used to indicate either the temperature or the pressure of water in a water heater, or both.

Water meter: A gauge used to measure the amount of water flow in a system.

Water pressure: The amount of force, measured in pounds per square inch, that a water system produces.

Water softener: An appliance designed to remove hardness chemicals, such as calcium, from the water supply.


Modern Blu is available to help with any plumbing issues you might have, whether or not you speak the language of plumbing!Need plumbing help? Whether you’re looking to upgrade some fixtures or completely remodel your bathroom, Modern Blu is here to help. Call Modern Blu, at 469-546-7636, or contact us online to schedule an appointment if you are in the Flower Mound, Highland Village or Lewisville areas.