Common Plumbing Terms Homeowners Should Know

Plumber performs maintenance on a toilet tank - Mr. Plumber by Metzler & Hallam

Plumbing terms are often confusing to those who aren’t familiar with the industry. Most Indianapolis homeowners don’t know all the different components and materials that make up their plumbing systems and fixtures, and that’s ok! We know plumbing isn’t your focus and that’s why you turn to us for our expertise and help when you need plumbing work at your Indianapolis home.

Even so, we aim to make sure you are completely comfortable whenever you chat with our licensed plumbers about repair or installation projects. While we always take the time to answer your questions, this guide to common plumbing terms helps you get to know some of the main components within your plumbing system and fixtures. We also discuss the various types of materials that are used in residential plumbing systems.

Before your next date with our plumbers, we recommend you browse the plumbing terms below, as they may pop up when we discuss your plumbing needs. For a further explanation of any of the plumbing terms in our guide or to discuss your next plumbing project, contact Mr. Plumber of Indianapolis today!

Guide to Plumbing Terms in Indianapolis

The plumbing industry is full of terminology used to describe various parts, materials, and more. When a repair or new installation is needed, you are likely to hear plumbing terms that discuss specific components and materials used in your system and fixtures. Our guide to common plumbing terms shares this terminology so you know exactly what your plumber means when he or she discusses the work your home needs.

Plumbing Terms for Materials

First, let’s run through plumbing terms regarding plumbing system materials. These plumbing terms are likely to come into conversation with your plumber as he or she discusses your current plumbing system, plumbing system repairs, and installations or renovations.

  • Cast iron: While cast iron isn’t typically used in residential plumbing systems today, if your home was built before the 1960s, there could be cast iron piping or components still in use. While luxury cast iron bathtubs are commonly used in bathroom upgrades, many cast iron plumbing system components have been replaced with plastic alternatives.
  • Copper: Copper or copper alloy piping for plumbing became popular in the 1950s and is still in use today. Copper plumbing lines are used for potable water plumbing. Copper is rust-free but may be affected by corrosion, typically at solder joints connecting pieces of piping.
  • Coupling: A coupling is a type of pipe fitting used to join sections of plumbing pipe.
  • CPVC: CPVC stands for chlorinated polyvinyl chloride piping. This plastic piping is often used in potable water lines for hot and cold water supplies.
  • Galvanized steel: Used in plumbing from the late 19th century to approximately 1960, galvanized steel water pipes use a zinc coating to inhibit corrosion.
  • PE: PE stands for polyethylene, a type of plastic found in many gas and water piping applications.
  • PEX: PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. This newer piping is used in potable hot water systems. It takes less labor to install versus metal piping types. It is also flexible and does not need elbow fittings, making it a good choice for going around corners.
  • PVC: PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. This is a rigid white pipe used for vent and waste lines, cold water lines that run underground, drains, irrigation, and sprinklers. A flexible form of PVC piping is also available.

Plumbing Terms for System and Fixtures

Often times when you experience a water leak or a problem with a plumbing fixture, it is due to a malfunction with certain plumbing components. These plumbing terms cover many of the components found within your plumbing fixtures and systems.

  • Aerator: The aerator is a cap that fits over a faucet spout and is used to aerate the water that flows out. Air and water are mixed to increase volume and assist in water conservation.
  • Anode rod: Anode rods are found in water heaters. They protect lining within the water tank to keep the water heater useful for longer.
  • Backflow prevention device: This device works to stop the backflow of wastewater in your home’s plumbing system.
  • Closet flange: The base of your toilet is attached to the floor with a closet flange, which is an anchoring ring affixed with bolts.
  • Drain: Drains allow your home’s wastewater to move from fixtures through your plumbing system to the sewer or septic system. Most drains are open. Floor drains usually have a grate that covers their opening.
  • Escutcheon: This is a cover that hides the faucet stem and the hole in the wall that it comes through. They are often decorative and found below a faucet handle or behind pipes that penetrate walls, such as a shower arm or stop valve.
  • Flapper: AA flapper is a shutoff valve that stops water flow with a hinged flap. Toilets have flappers at the bottom of the tank. They open when the toilet is flushed, and close once the tank is empty so it is able to fill with water once more.
  • Float valve: Also called a ballcock, the float valve sits within the toilet’s tank – it’s that thing that looks like a rubber ball attached to a stick. It regulates water level within the toilet tank. It floats atop the water and stops water flow once water levels hit a certain measure.
  • Hose bibb: Aka a spigot, this valved fitting lets you attach a hose to the water supply. They’re in laundry rooms for washing machine hookups and on the exterior of the house to connect a garden hose.
  • Overflow tube: This toilet component is inside the toilet tank. The overflow tube directs water into the bowl if the float valve isn’t operating correctly. When the overflow tube runs, it often sounds like the toilet is constantly running – a sign your float valve needs to be checked out by a plumber.
  • P-trap: The p-trap is a section of pipe that connects a sink drain to the drainpipe below it. Some water always sits in the bend of the p-trap to stop odors from coming up through the drain.
  • Pressure balance valve: This mixing valve regulates water pressure fluctuations in cold and hot water supplies. It delivers constant temperatures in showers.
  • Pressure tank: If your home has well water, you have a pressure tank that holds water for in-home use. Water within the tank is placed under pressure by a bladder, which allows the water to flow through the plumbing system to the faucet calling for water. Pressure levels within the tank are monitored by gauges and a pressure switch.
  • Priming jet: The priming jet lets water move from the toilet’s tank to the bowl to push waste through the trapway of a toilet.
  • S-trap: The s-trap functions like a p-trap, but it connects a fixture drain to the drain lines positioned behind a wall, not the floor.
  • Septic field: This piping allows wastewater from a septic system to discharge into the ground for natural filtration.
  • Septic system: A septic system is used in homes not connected to municipal sewer lines. They are often found in rural homes for wastewater treatment. Sewage from the home is treated using a bacterial process that breaks down waste.
  • Septic tank: Septic tanks are buried underground. Drain lines allow waste from a home to reach the septic tank. Solid matter falls from liquid to the tank’s floor. Anaerobic bacteria break down septic waste and water exits through the septic field into the ground.
  • Shutoff valve: Shutoff valves are used to stop water from moving through a fixture or piping. Sinks and toilets have their own shutoff valves that are usually installed behind/below. A home has a main shutoff valve that stops water flow through the entire plumbing system, usually found at the main water line. Know where these valves are located so you are able to shut off the water supply in the event of a water leak or other plumbing emergency.
  • Sump pump: A sump pump moves excess water away from a home to prevent damage. It sits within the sump pit, often located in a basement or crawl space.
  • Trapway: The trapway connects a toilet’s bowl to drain lines. It is also called a ball-pass or ball passage because its measure describes the size of ball which can pass through.
  • Vent stack: Also called vent piping, the vent stack keeps pressure equal within a home’s drain lines. Without pressure equalization, a vacuum may occur which stops drainage flow.
  • Well pump: In homes with well water, the well pump draws water from an underground source so it is able to be used within a home.

Other Plumbing Terms

In addition to the components and materials discussed above, there are a few more plumbing terms that come up in conversation that relate to system issues, fixtures and more. We discuss these plumbing terms below:

  • Backflow: Backflow occurs when wastewater within your home’s drain lines reverses in direction. This is a potentially dangerous problem that leads to contamination of your potable water supply.
  • GPM: GPM stands for gallons per minute, which describes the volume of water a plumbing fixture consumes when operating.
  • Graywater: Graywater is a term that covers all wastewater from your home’s plumbing fixtures EXCEPT the toilet.
  • Low flow: Low flow is a term used to describe water efficient fixtures. These fixtures offer a lower volume of water use for its task, such as in toilets, showerheads, and faucets.
  • Rough-in: If you renovate a bathroom or kitchen, install a new plumbing fixture, or replace or relocate existing fixtures, a rough-in is part of installation that involves running water supply and drain lines as well as waste and vent lines to the location of the new fixture.
  • pH: pH stands for potential of hydrogen, which is a measure of water’s alkalinity or acidity.
  • Potable: Potable or potable water are plumbing terms that describe water that is safe for consumption, cooking, and other needs in a home.
  • PSI: PSI stands for pounds per square inch, a measure of a device or fixture’s pressure.

Discuss Plumbing Terms with Mr. Plumber Today!

Ready to put your new knowledge of plumbing terms to use and chat with a plumber about your needs? Contact Mr. Plumber of Indianapolis today for an estimate for plumbing installation or to schedule repair service.

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