Ten Plumbing Terms Everyone Should Know

plumber showing homeowner pipe problem

You don’t have to be a plumbing expert, but knowing a few simple plumbing terms will help you explain your plumbing problems to your service technician accurately. Knowing just a few key terms will prepare you for communicating with whoever is taking your call or showing up at your door for plumbing repairs.

  1. Grey Water
    This is the used water that drains away from your showers, bathtubs, and sinks after you wash your hands, do dishes, or take a shower. If the water is flushed from the toilet to the sewer, that is called “black water.”
  2. Flapper Valve
    A flapper is the rubber flap at the bottom of your toilet tank that opens to allow water from the tank to fill up the bowl when you flush.
  3. Shut Off Valve/Main Shut Off Valve
    Shut-offs are the stops under the sinks and behind the toilets in your home that allow you to shut off the water locally. Plumbers sometimes call them angle stops.

    Everyone should also know what their main shut-off valve looks like and how to turn it off in case of a water emergency like a major leak. The main shut-off is usually found in the basement or crawl space and allows you to shut off the water coming into the whole home from your main water line.
  4. O-Ring
    An o-ring is simply a circular-shaped, rubber washer that ensures water-tight seals.
  5. Pressure Reducing Valve
    A PRV, or Pressure Reducing Valve, is a device that stabilizes the water pressure in your home or business to a level between 50 and 80 psi (pounds per square inch) to prevent damage to ensure adequate water pressure that is safe for your plumbing appliances, fixtures, and pipes.
  6. Hose Bib
    A hose bib is simply the plumber’s term for your outside hose spigot.
  7. P-Trap
    This is exactly what it says it is…a P-shaped piece of piping underneath sinks that allows for a pool of water to collect in the pipe to seal the drain. This prevents bad smells and back-ups and is imperative to any drain.
  8. Water Hammer
    This is a sound that occurs when pressurized water inside a pipe suddenly reverses direction which can happen when you open or close a faucet.
  9. Auger or Cable Machine
    An Auger is a coiled cable that, when fed down into a clogged pipe as far as it will go and turning a crank, will eat its way through an obstruction in the pipe. A Cable Machine is similar but has a motor to turn the cable against the obstruction.
  10. Vent Stack
    The vent stack is the main vent pipe connecting the main sewer line to the roof in order to dissipate harmful gasses and allow air into the pipes to equalize pressure.