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Common Plumbing Terms

Our helpful plumbing glossary will help you understand common plumbing terms.
These common plumbing terms identify plumbing processes, parts and systems.

ABS: ABS is the acronym for Acrylonitrile Butadien Styrine material. A black, rigid type of plastic piping used for removing wastewater. It’s also used for drain lines and vents.

Access Panel: Plumbing or electrical systems may be reached through an access panel in a wall or ceiling next to a fixture.

Adaptor: An adaptor is a feature that allows pipes of different sizes or materials to fit together.

Aerator: An aerator is found near the tip of a faucet; it allows air to mix with water to ensure that the running water doesn't splash.

Angle Stop: An angle stop is a shutoff valve which is located between the supply line and the faucet or toilet. It should be turned off during a plumbing emergency. It’s perpendicular to the outlet, by the fixture.

Backflow: Backflow is the flowing of liquid in the direction other than the one intended.

Backflow Preventer: A device that prevents backflow.

Ballcock: A ballcock is a device which controls the flow of water from the supply line to the toilet. Located in the tank water, the apparatus is controlled by a float. The float drops once the water is flushed, opening the ballcock and releasing water into the tank. After the tank is refilled, the float comes back up to shut off the ballcock.

Boiler: A boiler is used to create hot water or steam for hydronic baseboard, radiant heat or steam radiator heating systems. Boilers can use a variety of fuels including natural gas, propane, oil or electricity. Steam boilers are more complex than hot water boilers and have special gauge glass, pressure gauges, blow off valves and automatic feeds. Hot water boilers can be small, compact, energy efficient and low maintenance.

Clarity: Indicates how clear the water is.

Closet Auger: It is a kind of bar with the top end curved up. Since it’s flexible, it is used to clean out clogs in toilet traps.

Coupling: A coupling is a fitting that joins together any two fittings or pipes.

Diverter: Diverters are used in bathtubs, bidets, showers and sinks to guide water into many different outlets.

Drain: Pipe/channel system used to draw liquids away.

DWV: It stands for drain, waste and vent. They’re the primary components of any plumbing drainage system.

Elbow: A type of pipe fitting with two openings that can alter the direction of the line. They’re available in a variety of angles.

Female Fitting: It's a fitting which allows another fitting to be placed within it.

Fitting: Fitting is a general term for piping features, faucets, and shower valves.

Fixture: A general term used to refer to items such as sinks, tub and toilets. Fixtures generally have piping systems that both provide fresh water to them, and remove wastewater away.

Flapper Valve: The flapper valve, which is normally at the base of the toilet tank, lets water flow into the bowl from the tank when it is opened.

Flushometer: A flushometer is a valve for a toilet that closes after a predetermined amount of water has passed through.

French Drain: This is a drainage system often used to control high ground water levels.  The pipe has drainage slots on the top so when and if the water level exceeds the height of the pipe, the water will drain through the top of the pipe and be carried away.

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