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Plumbing Glossary: Your Guide to All Plumbing Terms

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Trying to figure out what’s going on with your plumbing system is difficult enough without previously understanding the terms. There are so many terms, phrases, tools, devices, and issues that can occur–so how are you supposed to know the difference–either as a homeowner or as a tenant? Below you’ll find all the answers with this plumbing glossary. This glossary will help guide you through the ins and outs of plumbing vocabulary! 


An aerator, a mesh piece that screws onto the tip of your faucet–making it also known as a faucet aerator–helps create a non-splashing stream of water and air. 


Augers are like plumbing snakes, except instead of pulling the blockage out of your pipes, augers push the clog through. 


To “bleed” in plumbing means to let out excess water or air from your pipe or plumbing system. Plumbers typically do this by opening a valve. 


Blowbags are typically attached to your garden hose to clear a blockage using water pressure. They are made of heavy-duty rubber–think of them as heavy-duty rubber balloons! 


Brass is a type of metal material that is used in plumbing. There are many different types of plumbing materials, and brass is one of the most common. 

Branch Drain

Branch drains are just that–a drain that collects from multiple pipe branches. They are waste pipes that collect waste from at least two drain pipes in your home. 

Closet Bend

A closet bend is a 90-degree elbow-fitting pipe–probably what your toilet plumbing includes. 


CPVC stands for chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. It’s similar to PVC pipes you’re probably familiar with, although plumbers don’t typically recommend their use anymore. 


An effluent sewer carries the wastewater from the tank in your home to the drain field. 


Fittings are used to connect multiple straight pipes or tubes. 

Flow Rate

Another phrase for this is GPF or gallons per flush. This measures how many potential gallons per minute could come out of your faucet or bathtub. 

Flow Control Valve

These valves are used in pneumatic systems to regulate compressed air flow through your pipes. 


Gaskets are sealing materials used in plumbing. They’re typically put between connected flanges to create a “static seal.”

GPF (Gallons Per Flush)

Also known as the flow rate. See the definition of flow rate above. 

Gray Water

Gray water is non-potable, used water. 


This device is placed in your sanitary drainage system to catch non-petroleum fat, oil, and grease. 

KPA (kilopascal)

Kilopascals are a unit of measurement used to measure pressure–water, air, or otherwise. 

Leach Line

These are drainage systems. They begin after the water passes through the septic tank. 


This is the main line in your home that carries waste from the smaller drains out of your home drainage system. 


Your manifold is the device that distributes both hot and cold water throughout your piping system. 

MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level)

The MCL is the unit of measurement used to measure the maximum level of contaminated water in domestic plumbing. 


This means metals, including aluminum, copper, zinc, tin, and iron. 


This means water that is not drinkable and may be contaminated. 


The o-ring prevents leakages from your sealed pipes. They’re part of your pipe connection. 

Plumber’s Putty

Plumber’s putty is exactly how it sounds; it is a malleable clay used to make a watertight seal around the flange. 


You probably already know this one! A plunger is a plumbing tool that clears blockages in drains and pipes using suction. 


This means drinkable, uncontaminated water. 


Like the CPVC, the PVC is a polyvinyl chloride pipe used in plumbing. 


These move water from one floor to another within your home. 

Scald Guard

These protect you and your water from being scalding hot! Although hot water is excellent, you don’t want to get second or third-degree burns!


You’ve probably heard of this term before. Sediment is usually dirt or other things deposited in underground pipes by the flowing water. 

Septic Tank

You’ve also probably heard of this term before, too. The septic tank is part of the septic system, the wastewater systems in individual, domestic homes. 

Soil Pipe

These pipes move sewage water from toilets and sink to soil drains and sewers. 

Shutoff Valve

This is the primary valve that will turn your water on and off. Once this is turned on, your water should stop!


Snakes (no, not the reptile!) are plumbing tools used to unclog drains and pipes. They are a flexible type of auger. 


Tees are the most common pipe fitting type, combining or dividing the fluid flow. 

Teflon Tape

Like plumbers’ putty, Teflon tape is a standard plumber’s tool. It is a professional-strength adhesive used in ducting and plumbing work. 


A trap is a portion of piping designed to trap liquid or gas and prevent any unwanted flow of these materials. It’s usually in the form of a U-shape. 

Trap Seal

A trap seal is another part of the “trap.” It can open to allow water drainage and close to seal when water flow halts. 

Valve Seal

The valve seal is a seal around the valve that prevents leakages. They’re also used in cars!


These regulate the air pressure throughout your home. 

Water Hammer

A water hammer is a possible event, not a tool or material. This can happen when there is a pressure surge of water or air in your piping system. This means it can occur in any home that uses valves to control liquid or steam. 

Water Hammer Arrester

These devices help prevent and lessen the damage of water hammers. They absorb the pressure behind the water hammer pressure surge to protect your home drainage system and pipes. 

Wye Fitting

Wye fittings link both vertical and horizontal lines in either direction.

Are you looking for a plumber?

Now that you have your plumbing glossary, all you need is a plumber! Contact us today to get started with your plumbing needs. And now that you know all about plumbing terms, it’s essential to learn about what plumbing tools you should keep on hand. Click here to learn more. 

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