Here are many of the common plumbing terms that can and will be used by C&H Plumbing as we do business. If you ever wondered what what a plumber was talking about, this reference is for you. I know the list is long but can come in quite useful.
ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. A black plastic pipe used in plumbing for drains and vents.
Absorption Field: A leaching or seeping drain field engineered to receive septic tank effluent.
Adjustable Hot Limit Stop: Restricts hot water output in single control faucets and showers to protect against scalding by limiting the swing to the hot side.
Aerator: A screen-like insert screwed onto a faucet outlet. It mixes air with the flowing water to reduce splashing.
Air Admittance Valve: (AAV) Studor vent. Cheater valve. A plumbing device that replaces a traditional vent to allow air to enter the pipe and equalize pressure, preserving the seal of water in the fixture trap.
Air Break: (Drainage System). A piping arrangement in which a drain from a fixture, appliance or device discharges indirectly into another fixture, receptacle or interceptor at a point below the flood level rim and above the trap seal.
Air Chambers: Pressure absorbing devices that eliminate water hammer. They should be installed as close as possible to the valves or faucet and at the end of long runs of pipe.
Air Gap: (Drainage System). The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the outlet of the waste pipe and the flood level rim of the receptacle into which the waste pipe is discharging.
Air Gap: (Water Distribution System). The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the lowest opening from any pipe or faucet supplying water to a tank, plumbing fixture or other device and the flood level rim of the receptacle.
Air Lock: A bubble of air which restricts the flow of water in a pipe.
Anode Rod: A sacrificial rod installed in a water heater, composed of one or more metals that protects the tank from corrosion, helping to extend the life of the tank.
Auger (or Closet Auger): A bendable rod with curved end used by plumbers to remove clogs from a toilet’s trap.
Back Flow: When water traveling from one system backs into any part of the main distribution system, usually by siphoning.
Back Flow Preventer: A device to prevent back flow, especially into a potable water supply. Required for sprinkler systems, handheld showers, pullout faucet spouts, and kitchen sprayers.
Back Pressure: Pressure that resists the flow of fluid in a piping system.
Back-siphonage: negative pressure in the piping system which results in backflow. Commonly prevented with a vacuum breaker or air gap.
Backup: Overflow of a plumbing fixture due to drain stoppage.
Baffle: An object placed in an appliance to change the direction of, or slow down the flow of air, gases or water.
Balancing Valve: A water heater valve that controls water flow and balances heat distribution to different locations.
Ball Check Valve: A valve that uses a ball to seal against a seat to stop flow in one direction.
Ball Joint: A spherical assembly in shower heads that allows the head to pivot and rotate.
Ballcock: A valve in the tank of a gravity-operated toilet that controls refilling of the tank. It is connected to a float via a metal arm. After flushing, the toilet refills until the float rises high enough to shut off the valve.
Bathroom Group: Term to describe the common bathroom. One toilet, one sink, one bathtub/shower.
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, activated by pressurized fuel and air to generate its flame.
Blowbag: A drain-cleaning device consisting of a rubber bladder with a hose fitting on one end and a nozzle on the other. Also known as a blowfish.
Blowdown: Partial venting or draining, under pressure, of the water side of a boiler to reduce or remove unwanted contaminants. Also the pressure drops after releasing a pressure-relief valve.
Boiler: A sealed tank where water is turned to steam for heating or power.
Boiler Feed: A check valve controlling inlet water flow to a boiler.
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.
Brackish Water: Water containing bacteria between 1,000 and 15,000 ppm of dissolved solids.
Branch Vent: A vent pipe connecting one or more individual vents with a vent stack or stack vent.
Brass: Slang for faucets and fittings regardless of materials used.
Burst Pressure: The internal pressure that will cause a piece of tubing to fail.
Branch Drain: Plumbing fixture drain that leads to the main drain line.
Bushing: A fitting that’s threaded inside and outside that joins pipes of different sizes.
CC Connection: A term for a Copper Connection. (a shower water valve denoted as CC usually requires soldering).
CFM: Acronym for Cubic Feet per Minute. It applies to the capacity / performance of a bathroom vent fan to remove moisture from the room.
Check valve: A device that allow flow in only one direction.
Circuit Vent: A vent that connects to a horizontal drainage branch and vents two traps to a maximum of eight traps or trapped fixtures connected into a battery.
Cistern: A tank for storing water. (aka reservoir)
CPVC: Acronym for chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. A black plastic pipe that can handle high temperatures. Mostly used in water supply systems.
Cleanout Plug: A plug in a trap or drain pipe that provides access for the purpose of clearing an obstruction.
Closet Bend: A curved waste pipe fitting under a toilet that connects the closet flange to the drain.
Closet Flange: A ring that anchors the toilet to the floor and connects it to the closet bend. Also known as a Floor Flange or Toilet Flange.
Collar: A galvanized sheet metal restricting device used in conjunction with plastic pipe. Its function is to direct and control the intumescent action of the firestopping material.
Common Vent: An individual vent is permitted to vent two traps or trapped fixtures as a common vent. The traps or trapped fixtures being common vented shall be located on the same floor level
Compression Fitting: A kind of tubing or pipe connection where a nut and a sleeve or ferrule is placed over a copper or plastic tube and is compressed tightly around the tube as the nut is tightened forming a positive grip and seal without soldering. See Slip Joint.
Coupling: A short fitting used to join two pieces of pipe.
Cowl: A short fitting used to join two pieces of pipe.
Cross Connection: Any physical connection or arrangement between two otherwise separate piping systems, one of which contains potable water and the other either water of unknown or questionable safety or steam, gas, or chemical whereby there may be a flow from one system to the other, the direction of flow depending on the pressure differential between the two systems.
Crown Vent: A vent for a plumbing fixture in which the vent pipe is connected at the top of the curve in the pipe that forms the trap or within 2 pipe diameters of the trap.
Dam: A barrier in the trapway of a toilet that controls the water level in the toilet bowl.
Diaphragm: A flexible membrane in a valve that deflects down onto a rigid area of the valve body to regulate water flow from the supply lines. This eliminates the possibility of debris build-up within the valve.
Die: Cutting device used to thread pipe. A set of these attach to dieheads, and mounted on a threader.
Dielectric: A nonconductor of direct electric current.
Diffuser: A device used to reduce the velocity and increasing the static pressure 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.
Disposal Field: (aka septic drain field) An area containing a series of one or more trenches lined with coarse aggregate and conveying the effluent from the septic tank through vitrified clay pipe or perforated, non-metallic pipe, laid in such a manner that the flow will be distributed with reasonable uniformity into natural soil.
Diverter: A faucet valve that redirects water from the tub faucet to the shower head.
Dope: A lubricant used by plumbers on pipe threads. Often called “pipe dope”.
Drain-Waste-Vent System: (DWV) A pipe system that drains wastewater from the bathroom and vents the drain system.
Drop Ell: An elbow having lugs for attaching it to a wall or joist. (aka Drop Elbow). Often used to connect supply line for handheld showerheads or sprayers.
Drum Trap: A type of water seal-type trap usually used in the 4×5-inch or 4×8-inch sizes. These traps have a greater sealing capacity than the “P” trap and pass large amounts of water quickly. Commonly connected to bathtubs, foot baths, sitz baths, and modified shower baths. No longer allowed in many jurisdictions due to not being self-scouring.
Effluent: Septic system liquid waste.
Effluent Treatment System: Physical, chemical, and biological processes are used to remove contaminants and produce treated wastewater that is safer for the environment.
Elbow: A curved fitting, usually 90° or 45°, used to change the direction of a pipe run. Also called an “ell.”
Escutcheon: A decorative metal flange or plate that covers and hides the supply line hole in the fixture or wall.
Ferrule: A ring, cap, or band (typically metal) that strengthens or forms a joint.
FIP: (aka FTP or Female Pipe Thread) Acronym for Female Iron Pipe (or Female International Pipe). Describes a pipe or fitting with threads on the interior.
Fitting: Any part that joins together two sections of pipe. Comes in many shapes, sizes & connection styles. Examples: elbows, couplings, bends, wyes, etc.
Fixture: Anything that accepts or discharges water or wastewater: faucets, sinks, toilets, tubs.
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.
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).
Flood-Level Rim: The edge of a plumbing fixture or receptacle over which water would flow if it were full.
Float Ball: A floating device connected to the ballcock inside the toilet tank to activate or shut off the ballcock.
Flush Valve: A device located at the bottom of the tank for flushing water closets and similar fixtures.
Flushometer Valve: A device that discharges a predetermined quantity of water to fixtures for flushing purposes and is closed by direct water pressures.
Flux: A jelly-like substance used in soldering copper pipes and fittings. Applied before soldering to aid bonding and prevent oxidation.
French Drain: (also trench drain, filter drain, blind drain, rubble drain, rock drain, drain tile, perimeter drain, land drain, French ditch, sub-surface drain, sub-soil drain or agricultural drain) is a trench filled with gravel or rock or containing a perforated pipe that redirects surface water and groundwater away from an area.
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.
FUBAR: Acronym for F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition”
Gasket: Flat device usually made of fiber or rubber used to provide a watertight seal between metal joints.
Gate: A device that controls the flow in a conduit, pipe, or tunnel.
Gate Diverter: The pop-up lever on a tub faucet that activates the diverter valve.
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.
GPF: Stands for Gallons Per Flush. The rate of water flow by which toilets and flush valves are measured and regulated. Current law requires maximum of 1.6 GPF. Older styles were usually 3.5 GPF.
Gravity Operated Toilet: A toilet which relies on the natural downward pressure of water in a toilet tank to flush the toilet effectively.
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.
Greywater: aka sullage. All wastewater generated in households or office buildings from streams without fecal contamination, i.e. all streams except for the wastewater from toilets.
Groundwater: Water held underground in the soil or in pores and crevices in rock.
Hard Water: Natural water containing impurities in various proportions. Traditional hardness is a measure of calcium, minerals or dissolved solids in a solution, measured in parts per million. Hard water generally ranges from 100 to 250 ppm.
Hanger: A device used to support pipes.
Hose Bibb: Sillcock. An outdoor faucet, also used to supply washing machines.
IAPMO: Acronym for International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials®
ID: Stands for “inside diameter.” Measures the inside width of a pipe.
Impeller: A rotating wheel with vanes found inside a centrifugal pump. As it spins at high speed it draws fluids in and thrusts them under pressure to the discharge outlet.
Individual Vent: Individual vent permitted. Each trap and trapped fixture is permitted to be provided with an individual vent. The individual vent shall connect to the fixture drain of the trap or trapped fixture being vented.
Interceptor: A device for separating grease and oil from drainage systems.
IPC: Acronym for International Plumbing Code
IPS: An acronym for Iron Pipe Straight thread. A shower valve denoted as IPS uses non-tapered straight-threaded fittings (see NPSM).
IRC: Acronym for International Residential Code
Jet Pump: A pump in which a small jet of steam, air, water, or other fluid in rapid motion lifts or otherwise moves by its impulse a large quantity of the fluid with which it mingles.
kPa: A metric unit for pressure. 100 kPa = one atmosphere.
Lavatory: Bathroom or washroom sink.
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 approximately 50 percent greater thickness than type “M”.
Leach Lines: Pipes that carry effluent from the septic system out to the leach field, a porous soil area where treated waste is emptied.
Leader: An exterior drainage pipe for conveying storm water from roof or gutter drains to the building storm drain, combined building sewer, or other means of disposal.
Low Consumption Toilet: A class of toilet designed to flush using 1.6 gallons of water or less. Also known as “water-saving” toilets.
M Tubing: An industry standard for copper tubing defined by the tube wall thickness. Identified by a “red” stripe.
Maceration: the use of a machine that reduces solids to small pieces in order to deal with rags and other solid waste. Also, macerating toilets, which use a grinding or blending mechanism to reduce human waste to a slurry, which can then be moved by pumping.
Main: The primary artery of the supply or drain system to which all the branches connect. Referred to as the Main Vent in the vent system.
Manifold: A fitting that connects a number of branches to the main; serves as a distribution point.
MaP score: Maximum Performance score. Represents the number of grams of solid waste (soybean paste and toilet paper) that a particular toilet can flush and remove completely from the fixture in a single flush.
Mapp Gas: A colorless, flammable gas made by combining liquefied petroleum gas with Methylacetylene-Propadiene. It is a stable, non-toxic fuel used in brazing and soldering.
MCL: Maximum Contaminant Level – The maximum level of a contaminant allowed in water by federal law.
Metal Fatigue: A breakage of the metal caused by the bending and flexing or the expansion and contraction of a metal part beyond its endurance limit.
MIP: (aka MTP or Male Pipe Thread) Acronym for Male Iron Pipe (or Male International Pipe). It describes a pipe or fitting with threads on the exterior.
Nipple: A short piece of pipe installed between couplings or other fittings.
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 / non magnetic.
NPS: Acronym for Normal Pipe Size.
NPSM: An acronym for National Pipe Straight Mechanical. Indicates straight / non-tapered threads on pipes and fittings.
NPT: An acronym for National Pipe Thread. Indicates tapered threads on pipes and fittings.
NSPC: Acronym for National Standard Plumbing Code.
O-Ring: A rubber washer that is round instead of flat. Used in valve stems to create a watertight seal.
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.
Offset: The term used to describe a pipe that connects two parallel pipes. Some offsets in a drainage system may require an offset relief vent.
Overflow Hood: On a bath drain, the decorative hood concealing the overflow.
Overflow Tube: The vertical tube inside a toilet tank that directs water into the bowl in case the ballcock malfunctions and prevents potential water damage caused by a tank overflow. A constant running condition alerts the user to an overflow problem. On most toilets, the overflow tube also has a refill tube flowing into it, which directs water from the ballcock through the overflow tube to the bowl, after a siphon break.