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Common Plumbing Terminology Every Indianapolis Homeowner Should Know

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt like you didn’t understand anything they said? For some Indianapolis area homeowners, talking to a plumber can feel like this – there are many plumbing terms we use to describe the work you need. But we always do our best to explain things, so you are able to clearly understand and are happy to answer your questions.

To make you feel a bit more comfortable during your next chat with a plumber, we’ve put together some of the common plumbing terms we use and have explained them, so you know exactly what we are talking about!

Review our guide to common plumbing terms below – if you have further questions about any of these plumbing terms, feel free to reach out. To get started on your next plumbing project and put your new knowledge of plumbing terms to good use, contact us today to schedule service or an estimate!

Plumbing Terms for Indianapolis Homeowners

Our common plumbing terms cover several different aspects of your plumbing system and other terms you are likely to hear when you speak with a plumber about installation or repairs. We’ve broken them down into categories to best help you understand the plumbing terms discussed.

Plumbing Terms: Plumbing System Components

These plumbing terms cover equipment that may be part of your home’s plumbing system as well as components of different plumbing fixtures. These plumbing terms are likely to come up when your plumber discusses needed repairs or equipment replacement at your home.

  • Aerator: Aerators attach to the spout of a faucet. It aerates water as it mixes air into the water stream. This creates more volume and helps conserve water use from the fixture.

  • Anode rod: A component of many water heaters that is designed to protect the hot water tank’s inner lining, preserving the water heater’s useful service life.

  • Backflow prevention device: A backflow prevention device is installed within a plumbing system to prevent the backflow of wastewater through the drain piping.

  • Closet flange: This is the anchor ring that secures the base of a toilet to the floor with bolts.

  • Drain: Drains allow wastewater to exit a fixture or the plumbing system. The water is transported typically to wastewater treatment facilities or a septic tank for treatment. Drains are typically open, though a floor drain is often covered by a grate.

  • Diverter: A diverter is a valve that sends water to certain water outlets.

  • Escutcheon: This protective or decorative flange sits below a faucet handle, shower arm, stop valve, or other wall piping and covers the stem of the faucet and the hole it fits through.

  • Flapper: This is a hinged component within a type of shutoff valve that turns off the flow of water. You may be familiar with this component inside your toilet tank – the flapper at the bottom opens to initiate a flush, then closes when the tank has emptied so it is able to refill.

  • Float valve: Inside your toilet tank, the float valve is the component that looks like a ball on a stick. The float valve’s job is to control water levels inside the tank. The float valve’s ball rises as water level increases – once it rises to a certain level, the valve stops water flow. The float valve is also sometimes called a ballcock.

  • Hose bibb: Also called a spigot, a hose bibb is a valved fitting that allows for a hose connection. They are found indoors for laundry connections and outdoors for garden hose attachment.

  • Overflow tube: A toilet component that sits within the tank to send water to the toilet bowl in case of float valve malfunction. If your toilet sounds like it is running all the time, it’s because the overflow tube is in use, which indicates a float valve malfunction.

  • P-trap: The p-trap is located underneath a sink, which connects the sink drain to the main drainpipe of your home. It is designed to hold a small amount of water within its bend to prevent drain odors.

  • Pressure balance valve: This mixing valve for showers balances hot and cold water supplies by regulating pressure fluctuations to maintain constant outlet temperatures.

  • Pressure tank: In a well system, the pressure tank holds a reserve of water to be used in the home. A bladder pressurizes water inside, and the pressure moves water through the plumbing pipes when an appliance turns on and calls for water. The tank’s switches and gauges measure water pressure and initiate pumping when pressure levels fall to a set level.

  • Priming jet: The toilet bowl’s opening that allows water to flow in from the toilet tank and push waste to the toilet’s trap way.

  • S-trap: An s-trap is similar to a p-trap, as it connects a sink drain to the home’s main drainpipe. Instead of running to the floor, it runs to a wall.

  • Septic field: In a septic system, this network of piping discharges treated wastewater into the soil from the tank for naturally occurring decontamination.

  • Septic system: A septic system is an alternative to municipal sewer systems, often used in rural homes. Septic systems allow sewage to be removed from the home and treated through a bacterial process.

  • Septic tank: Septic tanks are installed below ground. Wastewater from the home travels through drainpipes to the septic tank's chambers. Solid waste settles on the bottom of the tank. An anaerobic bacterial process breaks down waste in the septic tank, and water flows through the septic field where the ground absorbs it for natural filtration and cleaning.

  • Shutoff valve: The shutoff valve ends water flow through a pipe, fixture, or system. Individual shutoff valves are typically located below sinks and toilets. A home’s main shutoff valve is typically found near the main water intake lines. It is important to know where the shutoff valves are in your home to stop water flow in case of an emergency or water leak.

  • Sump pump: A sump pump is located within a sump pit, which collects excess water – they are typically found in basements and crawl spaces to prevent flooding. The sump pump pumps excess water from the sump pit and moves it away from the home.

  • Trapway: The channel that connects a toilet bowl to drainage. Also called a ball passage or ball-pass, it is measured by the size of a ball that is able to pass through.

  • Vent stack: The vent stack or vent piping equalizes pressure in a home’s drain system. This stops the occurrence of vacuum conditions in the piping that inhibits the flow of drainage by equalizing pressure on each side of the drain.

  • Well pump: The well pump pumps water from a home’s well for use.

Plumbing Terms: Materials

These plumbing terms are related to the different components and materials that are used in residential plumbing systems. When you’re faced with new plumbing system upgrades or repairs, you’re most likely to hear these plumbing terms.

  • Cast iron: Cast iron was once used in drainage, sewer, vent pipes, and pipe fittings in homes. This durable, heavy metal is typically only used today in certain commercial settings for plumbing systems, though cast iron bathtubs may be used in a home.

  • Copper: Many plumbing lines installed in Indianapolis homes are composed of copper or copper alloy. Copper plumbing lines are mainly used for potable drinking water. Copper piping offers a long service life and does not rust, but corrosion is possible, primarily at solder joints.

  • Coupling: A coupling is a pipe fitting that unites two sections of piping.

  • CPVC: Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride piping is a type of plastic piping that is used for hot and cold potable water lines.

  • Galvanized steel: Galvanized steel is used in water piping. It is coated in a zinc compound to slow the corrosion process.

  • PE: Polyethylene, a plastic that is used in various types of water piping, as well as gas.

  • PEX: Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) piping is a newer type of piping used in plumbing systems. It replaces a home’s potable water piping. Less labor is required for installation as hose barb connections with compression rings are used rather than welding. As it is flexible, it eliminates the elbow fittings needed to accommodate galvanized steel and copper piping around corners in the home.

  • PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping is a rigid piping that is typically white in color. It is used in waste and vent systems, underground cold-water supplies, drains, sprinklers, and irrigation systems. Flexible PVC piping is also available for use in some applications.

Plumbing Terms: Other Terminology

Below are a few extra common plumbing terms you may hear when you discuss your home’s plumbing system and needs with your trusted Indianapolis plumber.

  • Backflow: Backflow is when the normal direction that wastewater travels from a home has reversed. Backflow can cause contamination of potable water.

  • GPM: This acronym stands for gallons per minute. It is used to tell the number of gallons a fixture uses while in operation.

  • Graywater: This describes a home’s wastewater from all water fixtures except a toilet.

  • Low flow: Low flow is often used to describe efficient plumbing fixtures that limit the amount of water utilized to perform a task. There are low-flow toilets, faucets, showerheads, and more.

  • Metered flush: This type of toilet has a mechanism that allows only a precise volume of water to be used with each flush. It is designed to save water.

  • Rough-in: In an installation, renovation, or replacement of a plumbing fixture, rough-in includes running drain and water supply piping along with waste and vent piping to the desired fixture location.

  • pH: Potential of hydrogen, or pH, is used to describe the alkalinity or acidity of a home’s water.

  • Potable: Potable describes water that is suitable for drinking, cooking, and other purposes throughout the home.

  • PSI: Pounds per square inch describes the pressure within a device or fixture.

Use These Plumbing Terms – Chat with a Plumber Today!

Williams Comfort Air is here to help all Indianapolis homeowners with their plumbing needs, from renovations and new installations to emergency repairs when something has gone awry. Day or night, contact us to schedule service at your Indianapolis area home. Our plumbers are ready to discuss your needs and demystify common plumbing terms to help you better understand the work that takes place in your home.

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