When You Need To Know What A Plumbing Term Means, Use Our Handy Plumbing Terms Glossary

ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. A black plastic pipe used in plumbing for drains and vents.

ABSORPTION FIELD: A leeching or seeping field engineered to receive septic tank effluent.

ACRYLIC:  A thermoplastic used on the surface of bathtubs and whirlpools.

ADA:  ADA stands for Americans with Disability Act.  When related to public plumbing, kitchen and bath, the intent is to make restrooms more easily accessible to those who have a disability.

ADA-COMPLIANT DEVICE:  A device which is fully compliant with current requirements of ADA.

ADAPTOR:  A fitting that joins two different types of pipes together. Or/Also a fitting that joins threaded with none threaded pipe (as in: female adaptor or male adaptor).

ADJUSTABLE HOT-LIMIT STOP: Restricts hot water output in single control faucets to protect against scalding.

AERATOR: A screen-like insert screwed onto a faucet outlet. It mixes air with the flowing water to reduce splashing.

AGA: The American Gas Association rating.

AIR-ADMITTANCE VALVE: A mechanical one way valve used to allow air to enter waste piping to equalize pressures. Vents are used to preserve the seal of trap in plumbing fixtures.

AIR GAP: In the drainage system, the unobstructed vertical opening between the lowest opening of a waste line and the flood level of the device connected to it.  Its purpose is to prevent backflow.

AIR INVERSION: Air inversion pipe lining is used to repair broken piping due to ground settling, pipe deterioration, tree roots etc.

ANGLE STOP OR ANGLE VALVE: Angle stops are made at a 90degree angle. They are used as shut-off valves at the water intake of plumbing fixtures or appliances.

ANODE ROD: Anode rods are installed at the top of an water heater tank and are generally made of magnesium or aluminum with a steel core. The anode rods will corrode before the exposed metal in the tank. If the anode rod has been corroded, the water begins to attack the exposed metals in your water heater which will eventually cause it to fail.

ANTI MICROBIAL (plumbing definition): Any plumbing fixture or plumbing accessory that is manufactured with anti-microbial characteristics integral to the product. An anti-microbial plumbing product is one that kills or hinders the growth of bacteria, mold, etc.

ANTIi-SIPHON VLAVE (Vacuum Breaker): The anti-siphon valve is a device installed to prevent water from backing up into fresh water supply lines

APRON (or Skirt): The decorative portion of a bathtub that covers the area where the tub was installed. It is most easily recognized on a whirlpool tub, the apron is typically removable to service the tub’s plumbing and or motor.

AUGER: A bendable rod with curved end used by plumbers to remove clogs from a toilet’s trap.

AUTOMATIC COMPENSATING VALVE: A valve that provides a means of automatically maintaining the water temperature. Automatic compensating valves are used to reduce the risk of scalding and thermal shock.

BACK-FLOW:  A flowing back (reversal of the normal direction of wastewater) from homes and buildings, leading to the possible contamination of potable water systems.

BACK-FLOW PREVENTER: A device that prevents wastewater and other contaminants from flowing into the potable water supply. Generally required for sprinkler systems, hand-held showers installed in bathtubs, faucets with pullout spouts, kitchen sprayers.

BACKPRESSURE IN A PLUMBING SYSTEM:  If a sewer drain line is running at 100% capacity, waste from this drain could cause a negative pressure which pulls water from a trap — allowing sewer gas into the space.

BACK-UP SUMP PUMP: A secondary pump to increase capacity, or provide a temporary replacement, for the primary sump pump.

BACKUP: Overflow of a plumbing fixture due to drain stoppage.

BACKWATER VALVE: A valve that prevents water from backing up into the house.

BAFFLE: An object placed in an appliance to change the direction of, or slow down the flow of air, gases or water.

BALANCING VALVES: A valve with an adjustable partition which can be used to increase or decrease flow.

BALL CHECK VALVE: A valve that uses a ball to seal against a seat to stop flow in one direction.

BALL COCK: The valve by which the water enters a tank type toilet (water closet), fills the tank and shuts the flow of water off when the water reaches a predetermined height in the tank.

BALL JOINT: Allows a shower-head to pivot and rotate.

BASIN: Generally circular, vessel with slopping or curving sides for holding water for washing.

BASKET STRAINER: A basket with holes which fits inside a drain to allow water to drain while catching debris before it enters the waste piping.

BEAM CLAMPS: A clamping device used when beams are the only thing used for support. They are used in conjunction with pipe hangers to ensure proper support and pitch. The beam can be C-clamp type or can span the entire beam.

BENCH MARK: It is a known elevation set throughout a building or job site that all trades can use to locate proper elevations for doors, windows, plumbing fixtures etc. An elevation will be set usually by the general contractor in accordance with the engineer and all trades can measure from that elevation.  It can also be a mark on a permanent flat service whereby it is used to lay out walls, columns, stairwells, etc.

HOSE BIBB: A faucet with nozzle bent downward. Also called: outdoor faucet or spigot.

BIDET: A plumbing fixture (similar in appearance to a toilet bowl)used for personal hygiene. It is floor mounted, usually next to a toilet, and consists of a washing basin, faucet and sprayer.

BLACKWATER: Waste water from a toilet.

BLEED: To drain a pipe of excess air by opening a valve at the end of the pipe.

BLOW TORCH: A torch used by plumbers to solder pipes.

BLOWDOWN: Partial draining of the water side of a boiler to reduce or remove unwanted contaminants.

BOCA CODE – Building Officials Code Administrators International

BONNET: The top portion of a compression valve assembly, it holds the valve in place as it is tightened against the valve seat at the other end of the assembly.

BRANCH DRAIN: Plumbing fixture drain that leads to the main drain line.

BRANCH WATER PIPING – Piping that supplies water to plumbing fixtures or equipment.

BRASS:  An alloy composed primarily of copper and zinc.  It is used in the manufacture of faucets and other plumbing fittings.

BRASS SEATS AND SEALS: – A plumbing valve which flow of water stops completely when turned off.

BTU: Abbreviation for “British Thermal Unit”. A measurement of heat equal to the amount of heat necessary to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit at sea level.

BURST PRESSURE: The internal pressure that will cause a piece of tubing to fail.

BUSHING: A fitting that’s threaded inside and outside that joins pipes of different sizes.

BUTTERFLY VALVES: The butterfly valve has some similar features to that of the wafer

CAST IRON: Formerly used for drainage, sewers, waste, and vent pipe and fittings.

CENTERSET: A style of bathroom lavatory faucet having combined spout and handles. Handles are 4″ from center of handle-to-handle. Also a single handle faucet installed on 4″ center-to-center faucet holes.

CHECK VALVE:A one-way valve that allows a liquid to travel in only one direction. It is used to halt backwards flow of liquid in case of a drop in pressure or reverse in directional flow.

CHINA: In the plumbing industry that generally refers to porcelain china used in making toilets and lavatory sinks. China is a material that is made from clay and is glazed and high fired in a kiln.

Circuit Vent – A branch vent that serves two or more fixtures. The vent extends from the top of the horizontal waste branch in front of the last connected fixture,  to the main vent stack of the building drainage system.

CLEANOUT PLUG: A plug in a trap or drain pipe that provides access for the purpose of clearing an obstruction.

CLEVIS HANGERS: A piece of metal (bent in the shape of a “U”) used to support pipe.

CLOSE-COUPLED TOILET:  A two-piece toilet. The toilet tank is separate from the toilet bowl. This is the most common type of toilet.

CLOSET FLANGE: A ring that anchors the toilet to the floor and connects it to the closet bend. Also known as a Floor Flange.

COLD CHISEL: A steel hardened tool with a beveled end used for chipping and breaking concrete, cast iron, steel and other hard material.

COMMODE: Another name for a toilet.

COMPOSITE MATERIAL: A material used to manufacture counter tops and and sinks.

COMPRESSION FITTING: A pipe connection where a nut & sleeve and is compressed tightly around the pipe it’s connected to.  This allows the fitting to be tightened down instead of soldering.

CONSOLE LAV:  A table-like fixture with an integral lavatory. The back is fixed to a wall and the front is supported by legs.

COPPER PIPE & FITTINGS: Copper pipe and fittings used for fresh-water supply, drainage, waste and vent pipe.

COUPLING: A short fitting used to join two pieces of pipe.

COWL: A short fitting used to join two pieces of pipe.

CPVC: Stands for chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. A black plastic pipe that can handle high temperatures. Mostly used in water supply systems.

CYCLE TIME: The amount of time it takes a toilet to complete it’s flush cycle, from the instant it is flushed until the water supply shuts off.

DAM: A barrier in the trap of a toilet that controls the water level in the toilet bowl.

DIFFUSER: A device used to reduce the velocity of a fluid passing through a system.

DIP TUBE: A tube inside the water heater that sends cold water to the bottom of the tank.

DIVERTER: A faucet valve that redirects water from the tub faucet to the shower head.

DOPE: A lubricant used by plumbers on pipe threads.

DOWNSPOUT PIPING: Also known as storm water piping.  It is the piping system that handles the discharge of water into city sewers.

DRAIN PIPING PITCH (Slope): The angle at which the drain piping is installed to assure that the waste water flows at a speed that allows the piping to be self-cleaning

DRAIN TILE SYSTEM: A system of pipe that collects below-ground drainage and allows it to dump into a sump-pump basket for the sump-pump to discharge.

DRAIN WASTE-VENT SYSTEM: A pipe system that drains wastewater from the bathroom and vents the drain system.

DROP-IN BATHTUB: A bathtub that is built with an integral lip meant to be dropped-into the area designed to receive the bathtub.

DROP-IN ANCHOR: These are anchors inserted into a pre-drilled hole in concrete. The anchor has a metal cam inside that when hit or “set” flares the bottom out to secure it in the concrete.

EJECTOR PITS: – A round, square or rectangular pit (collection vessel) that can be made from cast iron, steel, PVC, fiberglass, concrete or clay tile.  They are used in applications where the sewage is lower that the main sewer line it is to flow into.  Using an ejector pump, waste is pumped upward & out to the main sewer.  They must have a gas-tight cover and be properly vented.

EJECTOR PUMP: A pump designed to elevate sewage from a lower level upward to a point where it can be then drained away by gravity into a sewer or drain.

ELBOW: A fitting with two openings that change directions 90 degrees.

ELONGATED: The shape of the front of a toilet bowl. Generally about 2″ longer than the standard “round front” bowl.

ENAMEL: An opaque vitreous composition applied by fusion to the surface of metal fixtures such as cast iron and pressed steel tubs, lavatories and sinks. Please do not confuse enameled steel with enameled cast iron. Cast iron with enameling is much more durable.

ESCUTCHEON: A decorative metal flange or plate that covers and hides the supply line hole in the fixture or wall.

EXPANSION TANK: A tank installed on a hot water line — used to absorb excess pressure due to thermal expansion of the water.

EXTENSION TAILPIPE: A length of tubular brass or PVC piping used to extend the waste on a kitchen, lavatory or service sink. Connections or usually Slip Joint or threaded.

FAUCET TYPES: A faucet is any device that controls the flow of water

FIBERGLASS: Glass in a fibrous form used in making products such as boats and bathtubs.

FILL VALVE: (Commonly referred to as a Ball Cock) the fill valve controls water to the tank of a tank type toilet. The fill valves is operated by means of a float.

FINISHES: The following finish abbreviations are generally used by many (not all) faucet manufacturers : BC Brushed Chrome  BN Brushed Nickel  CP Polished Chrome  PB Polished Brass
SN Satin Nickel  WH White

FITTING: Any part that joins together two sections of pipe. Comes in many shapes, sizes & connection styles. Examples: elbows, couplings, bends, wyes, etc.

FIXTURE: A device for receiving waste-water that directs it into a sanitary drainage system. Examples include toilets, sinks, bathtubs, shower receptors, and water closet bowls.

FIXTURE UNITS (Supply) – The measure of how much water a plumbing fixture needs to properly function.

FIXTURE UNITS (Drainage) – The quantity of load a fixture generates on a plumbing drainage system.

FLANGE: The rim or edge at end of a pipe shaft that aids in connecting it to another pipe or anchoring it to a surface.

FLAPPER: A rubber flap with ball-like shape in the bottom of a toilet lifts to allow flushing and seals off the tank for refilling. Allows water to flow from the tank into the bowl.

FLEX COUPLING: A rubber fitting that uses steel band clamps to attach to the pipe ends. Mostly used to join sections of DWV pipe, but also connects PVC to clay or cast iron pipe.

FLOAT BALL: Connected to the ballcock / flush-valve inside the toilet tank. The float ball rises and falls with the water levels causing the ballcock to open and close.

FLOOR CLEANOUTS: A readily accessible opening installed in the floor off of a horizontal waste line to accommodate drain cleaning equipment to remove potential blockages.

FLOOR DRAINS: An opening in the floor used to drain potential liquid waste from the floors into the drainage system. Floor drains are most commonly seen in basements, core toilet rooms, janitor’s closets and mechanical rooms.

FLOW-CONTROL VALVE: Device designed to reduce water flow to a plumbing fixture. Often used to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

FLOW RATE: Measurement of water flow through a plumbing system in gallons per minutes (GPM) or gallons per hour (GPH).

FLUSH VALVE:  Located at the bottom of a toilet tank, the flush valve discharges the water from the tank into the bowl when the toilet is flushed.

FLUX: A jelly-like substance used in soldering copper pipes and fittings. Applied before soldering to aid bonding and prevent oxidation.

FRICTION CLAMPS / RISER CLAMPS: A friction or riser clamp is used to support vertical piping

FRICTION LOSS: Pressure lost in a pipe due to turbulence created by water traveling through pipe.

FROST PROOF HOSE BIBBS OR SILLCOCKS: When a hose bibb is designated as “Frost Proof” it is allows ice to expand without damaging the unit or connected pipe.

FSWT: Female sweat connection

G.P.M. (Gallons Per Minute): A unit of measurement used by plumbing material manufacturers to convey performance or measure capacities of a fixture, water piping and or waste piping.

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

GALVANIZING: The process of applying a coating of zinc to the finished product to provide corrosion protection. The coating can be applied by hot dipping or electrolytic deposition.

GARBAGE DISPOSERS: An appliance installed on the outlet of a kitchen sink that is used to grind up leftover organic waste so it is easily rinsed away by lots of water.

GAS COCK: Gas valve.

GAS PIPING: The piping used to deliver to a home and it’s gas powered appliances.

GASKET: Flat device usually made of fiber or rubber used to provide a watertight seal between metal joints.

GATE DIVERTER: The pop-up lever on a tub faucet that activates the diverter valve.

GATE: A device that controls the flow in a conduit, pipe, or tunnel.

GAUGE: The thickness of stainless steel and is commonly used in reference to quality grades on certain types of lavatories and sinks. 10 and 20-gauge stainless steel sinks go through a number of polishing and buffing operations to ensure a beautiful finish.

GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE (GL Insurance): An insurance policy issued to businesses to protect in case of liability claims generating from the operations the business performs (including employee negligence). This is usually coupled with Workers Compensation Insurance to form a firms commercial insurance package.

GRAVITY OPERATED TOILET: A toilet which relies on the natural downward pressure of water to flush  effectively.

GRAY WATER: Water generated by sinks, showers, bathtubs and clothes washers. It does not contain waste water from water closets, urinals, kitchen sinks or waste from dishwashers.  Gray water can be reused to water lawns, reducing the amount of fresh water needed.  A high-profile users of gray water is San Antonio TX’s River Walk.

GRAY WATER WASTE PIPE SYSTEM: Is the piping and storage system that collects graywater waste.

GREASE TRAP: A device that captures grease entering a system before it reaches the sewer lines. Usually used in commercial applications such as restaurants or cafeterias.

GREEN PLUMBING: Any type of plumbing that promotes conservation of water and or electricity.

H.P.:  Abbreviation for “horse power.”

H.T.:  Abbreviation for “hose threads.” Garden hose threads are different than standard pipe threads. They are much more coarse and are 0.75 – 11.5 NH (normal hose). The 0.75 is the nominal diameter (3/4 inch) and the 11.5 is the number of threads per inch.

HAND-HELD SHOWER WITH SLIDE BAR: A shower head that is attached to a flexible hose and can be moved up or down on a stationary slide bar. Originally designed for the elderly and handicapped, it has now become a premium upgrade in home showers.

HAND OR SINK AUGER: This is a coiled flexible cable that is contained inside a metal cannister and has a self-feeding auger bit for blockages in small diameter piping. The cannister is usually equipped with a handle and a knob so you can turn the rod cleaning the pipe of debris.

HANDSHOWER: A showerhead designed with a handle that is connected to a water supply via a flexible hose.

HANGER: A device used to support pipes.

HARD WATER: Hard water is a condition caused by dissolved minerals in underground water. The primary are Calcium and Magnesium. 85% of the water in the U.S is considered hard water.

Signs of hard water: spots on dishware, bathtub ring, scale build-up on shower heads and aerators on sink faucets. Hard water also reacts with cleaning products and detergents reducing it’s effectiveness. Hard water treatment comes in several forms the most common is a water softener.

HEAT EXCHANGER: A heat exchanger is submerged in a tank of water.  It is used to transfer heat from the device into the water (it’s sitting in) by way of the metal surface.

HEAT TRAPS: On water heaters, a heat trap allows cold water to flow into the heater, and prevents hot water from flowing out of the tank when not in use.

HOAR FROST: In plumbing, it is the frost that forms on vent stacks (on the roof) from water vapor coming in direct contact with freezing air. Build up of hoar frost can pissibly close off vent stacks which compromises their function.

HOSE BIBBS OR SILLCOCKS: A faucet that delivers water to locations outside.

HOT WATER RETURN PIPING: – Hot water return piping connects the end of a run of plumbing back to a water heater.  Often, a hot water return-line is installed with a recirculating pump to ensure hot water is always recirculating. Recirculating hot water cuts down on the time it takes to get hot water to a fixture, and minimizing water waste.

HOUSE DRAIN: The lowest part of the drainage system piping that receives all the house’s sewage discharges it to the city’s sewer-main.

HYDRAULIC PRESSURE:  The pressure applied against any object by a liquid. Most liquids cannot be compressed into a small area like air can. When a liquid is applying pressure to an object, the liquid will find its way around or through the object.

I.D.:  Abbreviation for “inside diameter” of a pipe. A 3/4″ pipe has an outside diameter wider than 3/4″.

ICE MAKER: An appliance or appliance-accessory (inside a refrigerator) that makes ice

IMPELLER: A rotating wheel with vanes found inside a pump. As it spins at high speed it draws in fluids and thrusts them (under pressure) into the discharge outlet.

INDIRECT WASTE PIPE: Waste piping from a plumbing fixture or appliance (often a washing maching) that isn’t connected directly to the waste drainage system, but instead drains into the drainage system through a fixture like a floor sink.

INTERCEPTOR: A device for separating grease and oil from drainage systems.

INTERNATIONAL PLUMBING CODE (IPC): – The International Plumbing Code was first adopted in 1995.  It combined codes from BOCA, ICBO and the SBCCI to produce an all-inclusive set of rules and regulations based on existing plumbing codes.

INVERT ELEVATION: The lowest inside point of any pipe at a certain location. Invert – The lowest point of the inside of any type of horizontal waste, vent or water piping.

J-HOOKS: Made of plastic, steel or copper plated, and in different sizes to accommodate different sized plumbing pipes. They look like the letter “J” and are usually nailed or screwed into a wooden or steel joist to hang waster, vent and water piping.

KITCHEN SINK FAUCET WITH PULL-OUT SPRAY: In the last 20 years most of the faucet manufacturers have come out with kitchen faucets with a sprayer that pulls out from the spout.

L TUBING: An industry standard for copper tubing defined by the tube wall thickness and identified by a “blue” strip.  Type “L” copper tube wall is 50% percent THICKER than Type “M”.

LEACH LINES: Pipes that carry waste water from the septic system to the leach-field, a porous soil area where treated waste is emptied.

VENT FLASHINGS: Thin sheets of metal used to water-proof vent stacks where they come through the roof. The roofing material is placed over the flashing and around the pipe and is sealed. Vent flashings are also made of rubber membrane.

LIQUID WASTE: Any liquid discharge from a plumbing fixture that does not contain human or animal waste matter.  Gray water is always only liquid waste.

LOW CONSUMPTION TOILET: A toilet designed to flush using 1.6 gallons of water or less. Also known as “water-saving” toilets.

LOW-FLOW:  Low-flow fixtures and fittings refer to plumbing products that meet the water efficiency standard of the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

M Tubing: An industry standard for copper tubing defined by the tube wall thickness. Identified by a “red” stripe.

Main Pipe – The central pipe line to which all other branches are connected. This covers all plumbing piping systems i.e. waste, vent and water piping.

MALE THREADS:  Male threads thread into female threads. Female fittings openings are larger than male fittings. Male fittings fit into/inside female fittings.

MANIFOLD: A fitting that connects a number of branches to the main; serves as a distribution point.

MCL: Maximum Contaminant Level – The maximum level of a contaminant allowed in water by federal law.

Mechanical Joints – definition, materials used, types of mechanical joints. Any type of

National Plumbing Code – This is a standard code book for the plumbing industry that covers BOCA (Building Officials and Code Administrator International) and UBC codes highlighting specifications and best practices and procedures for installation and standard plumbing materials

Nipples -A short piece of pipe threaded on both ends used to join two threaded fittings.

No Hub Soil Pipe – A type of pipe normally made of cast iron, without hubs, joined with no hub couplings

No-Hub Connector: A connector for no-hub iron pipe consisting of a rubber sleeve and a stainless steel band secured by hose clamps. A variation, a neoprene sleeve with two adjustable steel bands, is used for connecting dissimilar materials, as when connecting new plastic pipe to an existing cast-iron drainpipe.

Non-ferrous: Not containing iron.

NPS:  Abbreviation for National Pipe Straight Threads Standard (IPS)

NPT:  Abbreviation for National Pipe Tapered Threads Standard (FIP, MIP)

NSF:  National Science Foundation is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that develops standards and product certifications in the area of public health and safety.

NSF/ANSI Standard 60:  A standard related to chemicals used to treat drinking water. Developed by NSF, the standard was accepted by the NSF board in 1988 to evaluate products, such as water softeners and oxidizers, to assure that usage amounts safeguard the public health and safety.

OAKUM: Loosely woven hemp rope that has been treated with oil or other waterproofing agent; it is used to caulk joints in a bell and spigot pipe and fittings.

OD: Stands for “outside diameter.” Measures the outside width of a pipe.

ONE-PIECE TOILET:  The toilet tank and bowl are not separate. Less common and usually more expensive  Generally a more stylish toilet.

O-RING: A rubber washer that is round instead of flat. Used in valve stems to create a watertight seal.

OVALITY:  The difference between the most wide OD (outside diameter) and the most narrow OD on a pipe or tube.

OVERFLOW HOOD: On a bath drain, the decorative hood concealing the bathtub’s overflow opening.

OVERFLOW TUBE:  If the fill-valve malfunctions this vertical tube inside the toilet tank will direct water into the toilet bowl. This is the part that can sometimes make your toilet sound like it is constantly running, which is an indication that there is a problem with your fill-valve.

PB: Stands for polybutylene. A bendable plastic tubing most often used to supply water to bathroom fixtures.  This product has failed in nearly every installation.  PB pipe gets brittle over time (due to chlorine in water).  PB water pipes are always GRAY.  Many Home Owner’s Insurance Policies have coverage-exclusions for PB pipe.

PEX: Stands for cross-linked polyethylene. A flexible plastic water supply line commonly installed in new homes plus older homes when new water supply-line are installed.  PEX does not have the problems PB pipe does.  Over time, it has not shown evidence of getting brittle (and bursting as a result).  PEX pipe is RED or BLUE or WHITE.  Red and blue are typically used to indicate that the line is for hot (red) or cold (blue) water.

PIPE BURSTING – The pipe bursting method is used in underground piping (clay) piping is too deteriorated to repair.  A cable (attached to a conical bursting-heat) is pulled through the existing piping to break it and move it out of the way. Attached behind the bursting-head is the new (flexible) piping. As the pipe bursting head is pulled through the old piping it is being broken up and the new piping is being pulled through opening in the soil where the original pipe existed.

PIPES:  Unlike tubes, the measurement shown on the pipe roughly references the inside diameter (ID) of the pipe, instead of the outside diameter (OD).

PLUMBER’S PUTTY: A dough-like putty that seals joints between fixture surfaces and metal pieces, such as the drain.

PLUMBING SNAKE: A thin, flexible length of spiral-wound metal, which is inserted into a drain and rotated to clear anything that is clogged in the pipes.

PLUNGER: A rubber suction cup attached to a wooden handle.  Used to free drain clogs.

POC:  Point of connection

POP-UP ASSEMBLY:  The drain mechanism of a faucet installed on a lavatory. The drain stopper “pops” up and down.

POP-UP DRAIN: Remote control drain assembly. Also known as a “trip lever drain” for tubs.

PORCELAIN:  A white ceramic coating, fired at high temperature, to make the surface of some bathtubs, kitchen sinks and bathroom lavatories. Many times the word “porcelain” also refers to is a ceramic product with porcelain glaze.

POTABLE WATER:  Water that is satisfactory for drinking.

POWER VENT:  Refers to mechanical venting of exhaust gasses for a water heater.   Power-Vented Water Heaters are used when a home is built too air-tight to allow for natural venting of hot exhaust gases from a water heater (most water heaters use natural venting).   Power-Venting is also used when horizontal venting is needed or desired.

PRESCRIPTIVE PRODUCT STANDARDS:  These standards exceed performance-based product standards.  They attempt to achieve a desired outcome by specifying the characteristics, materials, performance and operability of products. EXAMPLE: A Prescriptive Product Standard for pipes which carry water would specify the maximum amount of lead the pipe could contain.

PRESSURE BALANCE VALVE:  A shower mixing valve that automatically maintains balance between hot and cold water supplies by immediately regulating fluctuations in pressure. As a result the outlet temperature remains constant.

PRESSURE-ASSISTED TOILET:  A toilet that uses a compressed-air device to enhance the force of gravity used to clean the bowl when the toilet is flushed.

PRIMING JET:  The opening in the toilet bowl that allows the flow of water from the tank, designed to push waste through the trapway.

PRV:  Abbreviation for “Pressure Regulator Valve.” Generally means water pressure regulator.

PULL OUT SPRAY:  When referring to a kitchen faucet this is a retractable hose/sprayhead. We’d like to mention that hoses used with a pull-out spray can turn out to be a high replaceable item. If you have a pull out sprayer be sure to pull it out straight each and every time. Do not kink the hose because if you do, no matter what brand, you could be ordering replacement hoses frequently.

PVC: Stands for Polyvinyl-Chloride. A rigid white plastic pipe used for bathroom drain, waste and vent pipes.  PVC can also be used for water supply pipes, but it’s not common because of the noise generated when water (under pressure) is flowing through the pipes.

PVD:  (Physical Vapor Deposition)  This is a modern plating process used in faucet manufacturing. Vaporized zirconium reacts with nitrogen and other gases to form a durable plated surface. Polished brass finishes with PVD are extremely durable and typically don’t tarnish or discolor.

RAIN WATER HARVESTING: The collection of rain water as it falls off a home’s roof.  The water is stored, then used for watering plants and lawns (plus other watering needs).

REDUCER: A fitting that allows pipes of different sizes to be joined together.

REFILL TUBE:  Carries water from the fill-valve to the overflow tube after the siphon break in order to refill the toilet bowl.

RELIEF VALVE: A valve that opens to relieve excess temperature and/or pressure in the system.

RIM HOLES:  Small holes along the underside of the toilet bowl rim in which water flows out of, resulting in a rinsing of the toilet bowl’s inner surface.

RISER:  A vertical assembly of pipe and fittings that generally distributes water upward.

ROUGH-IN DIMENSIONS:  Rough-in dimensions provide the necessary information to install connecting plumbing or other similar systems before installing the fixture.

ROUND FRONT:  The standard shape of the front of a toilet bowl. Generally bout 2″ shorter than the optional “elongated” bowl.

SCALD GUARD: A valve designed to prevent extreme water temperature changes. When there is a drop in hot or cold water pressure, the scald-guard valve shifts back and forth to compensate for the changes. This valve maintains a constant water temperature.

SCALE: A thin coating or layer of visible white calcium that builds up on water carrying devices such as faucets and aerators. It also builds up on the bottom of a water heater tank over time.  As this occurs, the calcium slows heat transfer.

SCHEDULE (SCH):  The “Schedule” designation tells the thickness of the wall for any pipe, with higher numbers meaning a thicker wall. The most common schedules are Sch 40 and Sch 80.

SDR:  Standard Dimension Ratio (SDR) used for determining the minimum wall thickness for pipe. SDR is found by dividing the outside diameter (OD) of the pipe by the wall thickness measurement. To find the minimum wall thickness of a pipe you simply divide the OD by the SDR.

SEDIMENT: The substance that settles on the bottom of a water tank. It’s typically elements in the water such as lime.

SEPTIC TANK: A tank used to detain wastes to allow the settling of solids prior to distribution.  Bacteria in the Septic Tank works to break down the solid waste.

SHUTOFF VALVE: Valves installed under sinks and near toilets to shut off water supply in the event of a malfunction or repair. Also called an Angle Stop, Straight Stop or Supply Stop.

SIPHON BREAK:  The gurgling sound that takes place at the end of a toilet flush.  The siphon break is when air is re-introduced into the trapway, causing the siphoning action to cease.

SIPHONING:  Suction that takes place when water pressure drops.  This causes water and waste to be pulled through a descending outlet channel.

SLEEVE: A pipe coming through a wall, with the purpose of inserting another pipe through it.

SOFT WATER: Water that has a low mineral content.  In areas of hard water, water softeners are installed to treat the water and make it soft.

Soil Pipe: A pipe that carries waste from toilets.

SOLDER: A metal alloy that is melted to create a fused joint between metal pieces. Also the act of melting solder into the joint.

STATIC PRESSURE:  The pressure when NO water is flowing.

STRAIGHT STOP:  An “emergency” valve that is usually installed before the water supply line (below) to toilets and faucets. Angle stops are to be shut off in case of an emergency or repair.

STREET ELBOW:  An elbow (90 degree bend) fitting that has a male end on one side and a female end on the other side.

SWEEP: A pipe bend fitting used in drains to permit smooth passage of waste.

T&P Valve: Temperature and pressure valve. A valve on a water heater that opens to release excess pressure and temperature in a system.

TAILPIECE: The section of pipe that runs between a fixture outlet and the trap.

TANK BALL: Also known as flapper.  The rubber part of the flush-valve that opens and closes to start or stop water flow from the tank to the toilet bowl during the flush cycle.

TANK BOLTS:  Three bolts that connect the toilet tank to the bowl.

TANK COVER LOCK:  Device to prevent damage to and removal of the toilet tank cover and contents of the tank.

TANK:  Holds flush water for a toilet.  On typical toilets the tank includes the flush valve, fill valve and flush lever.

TAP:  Used interchangeably with faucet.

T-BOLT:  T-bolts are 2 anchor bolts that attach a toilet to the floor.  Also known as toilet or closet bolts.

TEE FITTING: A fitting that allows another pipe to be joined at a 90-degree angle.

TEE: A plumbing fitting in the shape of the letter “T,” used to connect three sections of pipe.

TEFLON TAPE: White tape with a water repellent Teflon finish.  It has non-stick properties and is wrapped around pipe threads in a joint to create a tight seal.

TEMPERED:  A heat treatment to strengthen and harden glass for more safety.  When broken, tempered glass shatters into small cubes that are much less dangerous than the long, sharp edged shards of regular broken glass.

TEMPERED: Water that has been mixed in order to avoid a temperature extreme.


THERMAL SHOCK:  A large and rapid change in the water temperature.  Technologies to prevent thermal shock include pressure-balance and thermostatic shower valves.

THERMOSTATIC VALVE:  A pressure balancing shower mixing-valve with automatic temperature control. When temperature or pressure fluctuations occur, a thermal actuator adjusts the hot and cold water ratio to maintain the original temperature setting.

THREAD SEALANT (LIQUID):  Provides a water seal for threaded connections.

THREAD SEALANT (TAPE):  Dry ribbons of sealant sold on spools.

THROUGH-THE-FLOOR:  Installation where the bath drain tee outlet points down rather than horizontal.

THUMB NUT:  To ease installation and to prevent over-tightening this nut was designed to be tightened without tools.

THUMB SCREW:  To ease installation and to prevent over-tightening this screw was designed to be tightened without tools.

TILE-IN:  Installation where the sink is fit flush with the countertop

TOILET SETTING COMPOUND:  Provides a non-hardening watertight seal for the base of the toilet and the floor.

TORQUE WRENCH:  Tool for measuring the amount of force applied to a threaded connection

TRANSFER VALVE:  Valve the changes the flow of water from one outlet to another

TRAP SEAL:  The water in a drain trap that prevents sewer-gasses from leaking back into the home.   Incorporated into toilets between the bowl and floor.

TRAP:  A curved section of drain line that prevents sewer-gasses from escaping into the home. All fixtures with drains must have a “P” (shaped like the letter P) trap. A toilet is the only plumbing fixture that has an “S” trap instead of a “P” trap.

TRAPWAY:  Trap built into a toilet connecting the bowl to the waste outlet.  Refills with water after the flush (when gurgling occurs at end of the flush).

TREATMENTS: The waste water is filtered. There are a multitude of ways to filter water, the most common is using physical media.

TRIP ARM:  Connects the toilet flush handle to the flush-valve.

TRIP CHAIN:  Chain that connects the toilet trip arm and the flapper on the flush valve

TRIP LEVER:  Handle attached to the outside of the toilet tank used to initiate the flush

The toilet tank is separate from the toilet bowl. This is the most common type of toilet and is also called a  close-coupled toilet.

ULTRA LOW-FLOW:  Plumbing fixtures and fittings that exceed the water efficiency standard of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The term is used interchangeably with “high efficiency”.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN: Universal design accommodates a wide variety of people.  Universal Design is meant to create buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to: people without disabilities, people with disabilities, and older people.  Universal Design allows those with physical disabilities or physical limitations to live in the same structure, and use the same products, as those without disabilities or limitations.

VALVE:  A fitting with a movable part that opens or closes to allow water to be started, stopped, and regulated.  Valves are used in faucets and showers, and may also be called mixing valves because they control the mix of hot and cold water to achieve desired water temperatures.

VALVE SEAT: The immovable portion of a valve. Water flow is stopped when the movable portion of the valve comes in contact with the valve seat.

VANITY:  A bathroom storage cabinet beneath the counter with the sink.

VENT:  All plumbing fixtures must have a vent. Vents are used to allow air into the drainage systems to prevent P traps to from being siphoned dry.

VITREOUS CHINA:  Used for plumbing fixtures such as toilets.  It is ceramic materials fired at a high temperature.  Exposed surfaces are coated with a ceramic glaze that fuses to the china and gives vitreous china plumbing fixtures their colors and glossy appearance.

VTR:  Vent through the roof

WASTE & OVERFLOW:  The drain assembly for a bathtub. The outlet at the top removes the “overflow” water.  The bottom outlet / drain removes water when the tub is drained.  Generally refers to a bathtub drain assembly.

WATER CLOSET (W.C.):  Used interchangeably with Toilet.

WATER HAMMER ARRESTOR: A device installed near a fixture that absorbs the hydraulic shock when a fixture’s water supply is suddenly shut off.  Without an arrestor, water hammer will occur.  Water hammer is a loud banging noise in the pipes.

WATER HAMMER:  Shock waves in plumbing caused when rapidly moving water is shut off quickly. This is mainly caused by under sizing of pipes and faucets or valves that are shut off fast. Sometimes installing water hammer arrestors can help alleviate or lessen water hammer.

WATERSENSE:  WaterSense is a program sponsored by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to promote water efficiency and enhance the market for water-efficient products, programs, and practices. Similar to the EnergyStar program, WaterSense helps consumers identify water-efficient products.  Products certified as meeting WaterSense product specifications are eligible to carry the WaterSense label.

WAX RING: A seal located between floor flange and toilet to prevent leakage and fumes.

WET VENT: A pipe that drains wastewater and vents air into the drains. Connects two or more fixtures.

WHITE–EURO:  Euro-white is a somewhat yellowish white.

WHITE–POLAR:  Polar-white generally is a bluish white.

WIDESPREAD:  A style of bathroom lavatory faucet having separate spout and handles. Usually 8″ from center of handle-to-handle.

WORKING PRESSURE:  Normal water pressure.