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Common Plumbing Terms

Every house has plumbing, and if you want to understand yours, and comprehend better what the plumbers are saying when you have a plumbing issue -you’ve got to know the lingo. Please see our plumbing glossary of common plumbing terms below:


It is an insert screwed onto a faucet nozzle that reduces splashing by mixing air into the flowing water.

Anode Rod

The anode rods are installed at the top of a water heater tank and are generally made of magnesium or aluminum with a steel core. Simply put, through electrolysis 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.


A flexible metal rod, usually made of spring material, with a cutting or clearing device on one end. It is used to clear clogs in drains. Closet augers, also called toilet augers, have a tubular guide to permit entry through the toilet trap design. Larger, longer augers are used to clean underground drain lines and may be motor driven.


The flow of water or other liquids, mixtures, or substances into the distributing pipes of a potable water supply from any source or sources other than the intended source. Back siphonage is one type of backflow.

Back Siphonage 

The flowing back of used, contaminated, or polluted water from a plumbing fixture or vessel into a potable water supply due to a negative pressure in the pipe.

Black Water

Waste water from toilets, urinals, bidets, or food prep receptacles, or waste water from drains receiving chemical waste.

Cast Iron Pipes

Cast iron (CI) pipes were widely used for the transportation of water and sewage before plastic pipes were invented. They are one of the oldest piping systems present today and are now being replaced by high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes. Some cast-iron pipes are still in working condition, but most have deteriorated and are in need of replacement.

Dip Tube

A tube inserted into a water heater tank to send cold water to the bottom of the tank.

Expansion Tank

A water heater tank designed to absorb excess pressure due to thermal expansion.

Fall/ Flow

The proper slope needed to create proper drainage in pipes.


While you’ll find flappers in many piping systems, the one most people need to know about is in the toilet. When you press down on the toilet handle, it raises the flapper to start the flushing cycle. If the flapper doesn’t seal correctly, you might experience a running toilet.

Flex Coupling

Rubber coupling used to join water or drainage pipes of differing materials, such as PVC to cast iron.

Float Valve

Another common item you’ll find in your toilet is the float valve aka ‘the ball cock” that automatically shuts off the water at a certain level. You can often change the desired toilet water level with a knob attached to the float valve.

PEX Piping

PEX piping is a relatively new product, where the tubes are flexible and easy to install. They’re great for handling tight corners where plastic or metal would prove challenging.

Plumbing Trap

A plumbing trap is formed by a pool of water collecting in a pipe with the shape of an inverted letter “P” or the letter “S” standing on its side. Per code, every drain has to have a trap, and P-traps are the most common for newer houses. The pool of water that collects in the inverted “P” seals the drain.

Traps are required partly because they catch solid objects that have fallen and prevent them from clogging the drain line. However, a far more important reason is that the water seal keeps sewer gases and strange bugs in the waste pipes and out of the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room. Even toilets have built-in traps, which is why there’s always water in the bowl.

Potable Water

Water having no impurities present in amounts sufficient to cause disease or harmful physiological effects and conforming in its bacteriological and chemical quality to the requirements of the Public Health Service drinking water standards or meeting the regulations of the public health authority having jurisdiction.  

PRV Valve

PRV, or pressure-reducing valve, is a special valve that is installed directly on the main water line. The PRV constrains the amount of water entering from the water company’s supply to normalize water pressure for home use.

P & T (Pressure and Temperature) Relief Valve  

A safety valve installed on a hot water storage tank to limit the temperature and pressure of the water. 


A thin, flexible cord of spiral-wound metal that fits down a drain and is rotated to dislodge clogs.

Shut-off Valve

The shut-off valve is the piping valve that stops the flow of water in the pipe. You’ll find this next to the toilet or under the sink. Kitchen and laundry room sinks also include shut-off valves.

This valve will have a knob either on the pipe or next to the wall. Turn it clockwise to shut off the water. There is also a main water shut-off, frequently located by the curb on the street.

Vent Stack

Outlet pipe that releases gas and odors outside the structure.

Water Hammer

The loud thump of water in a pipe when a valve or faucet is suddenly closed.  

If you have any questions about any of the commonly used plumbing terms above or wish to inquire if you have issues with anything mentioned, please do not hesitate to give our qualified plumbers at Schrader Plumbing a call! 817-262-0989

Categories: DIY, How to's,
By: Michelle Kurcina

Last modified:

Last Modified: January 19, 2023 at 3:11 pm