Plumbing Terms Every Cincinnati Homeowner Should Know

Plumber repairing a toilet - Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing

When you talk with a plumber, do the plumbing terms he or she uses make it sound like a whole new language? There are many special terms used in our industry, which we are always happy to explain, but we know some Cincinnati homeowners prefer to go into a meeting with a plumber with some prior knowledge of plumbing systems and components.

Our Plumbing Terms for Cincinnati Homeowners guide details some of the most common plumbing terms you are likely to hear when you meet with a plumber. Whether you plan to remodel a bathroom or are faced with an emergency repair, know what these common plumbing terms mean to best understand the work your home requires.

When you work with Thomas & Galbraith for Cincinnati plumbing installation, repairs, and maintenance, our technicians always take the time to ensure you know exactly what work we recommend. We want you to feel comfortable with your upcoming plumbing project – browse the plumbing terms below and be sure to reach out if you have any questions!

Common Plumbing Terms

For our common plumbing terms guide, we start with a few more general plumbing terms that come up as you talk with a plumber about home projects.

  • Backflow: Backflow is what occurs when the direction of wastewater within the drain lines of your home is reversed and moves in the wrong direction. Backflow is a serious issue that causes potable water to become contaminated.
  • GPM: Gallons per minute is a measure of water volume used by plumbing fixtures.
  • Graywater: This term includes all of a home’s wastewater except what comes from toilets.
  • Low flow: This term is used to refer to water efficient plumbing fixtures that use less water volume to operate. Low flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets are available.
  • Main line: This is your home’s main water supply line that brings water in from a municipal source or well.
  • Rough-in: Whenever you renovate a room with plumbing fixtures or relocate them, rough-in is the part of the installation process that involves running drain, water, waste, and vent lines to the new plumbing fixture’s installation area.
  • pH: Potential of hydrogen is used to measure the alkalinity or acidity of your home’s water supply. This term comes up when you discuss water treatment systems.
  • Potable: Potable is a term for water that is safe to drink, cook with, and use for other household needs.
  • Shutoff valves: There are several shutoff valves throughout a home – at sinks, toilets, and one that controls the main water intake line. Using these valves cuts off water flow to an outlet. Know where these are located throughout your home so you are able to turn off water in the event of a leak or emergency situation to prevent water damage.

Plumbing Terms: Plumbing System Materials

There are various materials used in the installation of plumbing systems. The plumbing terms you hear when you discuss repairs or replacement of your home’s plumbing system often depend on when your Cincinnati home was built and if components have been replaced in the past.

  • Cast iron: Older homes built prior to 1960 may still have cast iron plumbing components in place, as they were designed to offer a very long service life. While it is not usually installed in modern plumbing systems, cast iron bathtubs are a luxury item used in many bathroom remodels.
  • Copper: Homes in the 1950s and 1960s likely have copper plumbing lines, and copper may be used for some purposes in newer homes. Copper and copper alloy pipes typically run potable water into a home. These pipes are rust-free but can be impacted by corrosion.
  • Coupling: A coupling is a component that fits two or more sections of piping together.
  • CPVC: Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride pipes are a type of plastic pipe that are commonly used to run potable hot and cold water to a home.
  • Galvanized steel: These pipes were common from the late 1800s to around 1960. They have a zinc coating to ward off corrosion.
  • PE: Polyethylene plastic pipes are used for various water and gas pipe applications.
  • PEX: Cross-linked polyethylene pipes are a newer technology commonly used in potable hot water lines. Compared to metal plumbing pipes, they require less labor for installation. They are flexible and are able to easily work around corners, where elbow joints are needed for metal pipes.
  • PVC: Polyvinyl chloride pipes are rigid, white plastic pipes used for applications such as underground cold water, vent, waste, drain, irrigation, and sprinkler lines. While often rigid, there is a flexible PEX pipe option available.

Faucet and Sink Plumbing Terms

Let’s take a look at some common plumbing terms that cover components of faucets as well as drains for sinks, tubs, and other plumbing uses:

  • Aerator: Aerators are often installed on the outlet of a faucet. They combine water with air to give more volume and cut water usage.
  • Escutcheon: This is a plate that covers the stem of a faucet as well as the hole in the wall that connects the faucet and water supply line. Some escutcheons provide protection while others are merely decorative. They are found at faucet bases, on shower arms, and shutoff valves as well as other wall-penetrating plumbing pipes.
  • Hose bibb: Also known as a spigot, the hose bibb is a valved fitting that allows for a connection to a water supply. Hose bibbs are indoors in laundry areas and outdoors for garden hose connections.
  • P-trap: The p-trap is the section of piping in your cabinet below your sinks, which allows wastewater to drain to the home’s drainpipes. The bend in the p-trap holds water to prevent wastewater odors from flowing from the drains up through the sink.
  • Pressure balance valve: This is a mixer valve that keeps water pressure steady between hot and cold water lines. With even pressure, temperatures are consistent in showers and faucets.
  • S-trap: Like a p-trap, the s-trap connects a sink to the drainpipes. Instead of routing to the floor, it is used with the drain line sits behind a wall.

Toilet Plumbing Terms

Your home’s toilets contain several components that have the potential to cause leaks and other plumbing issues. These plumbing terms cover toilet components that you may hear when a plumber is out to fix your toilet.

  • Closet flange: Your toilet is affixed to the floor with the closet flange, which is a ring that anchors the toilet to the ground with bolts.
  • Flapper: This is a type of shutoff valve commonly found in a toilet. It is a flap that is hinged to open and shut, stopping and starting the flow of water. In a toilet, the flapper is at the tank’s bottom. It opens when flushed, and shuts to allow the tank to refill with water.
  • Float valve: Also known as a ballcock, the float valve is the component within the toilet tank that looks like a stick with a big ball on the end. This valve “floats” atop the water in the tank and detects when the water has reached a certain level, which stops the tank from further filling.
  • Overflow tube: This tube sits inside the toilet’s tank. It sends water into the toilet bowl if the float valve malfunctions, causing tank water levels to become too high. If it sounds like your toilet never stops running, it’s because there is water moving through your overflow tube – time to have your toilet inspected for a float valve problem.
  • Priming jet: The priming jet sends toilet tank water through the bowl, forcing waste through the toilet trapway.
  • Trapway: A toilet’s trapway is the section that leads from the toilet bowl to the home’s drain lines. It also may be referred to as a ball passage or ball-pass, because it is measured in terms of the size of a ball which could pass through the section.

Drain Plumbing Terms

Below are a few common plumbing terms concerning drains and drain lines in your home.

  • Cleanout plug: The cleanout plug is a trap held within a drain pipe. It allows drain access when a clog needs to be cleared.
  • Drain: Drains are installed on water-using fixtures throughout the home to allow wastewater to exit the fixture into the home’s drain lines. On sinks and tubs as well as other fixtures, the drain is typically open. Floor drains for appliances and other uses are commonly covered with a grate to prevent debris from entering the drain, which often leads to a clog.
  • Backflow prevention device: A backflow preventer is installed within a home’s plumbing system to prevent backflow, to protect against a reversal in wastewater flow direction.
  • Vent stack: Vent stacks are sometimes called vent piping, and are used to maintain equal pressure in the drain lines. This prevents vacuum conditions which have the potential to stop the flow of drainage.

Talk Plumbing Terms with Your Cincinnati Plumber

Ready to start your next home plumbing project? Our Cincinnati plumbers are here to help. We thoroughly review your needs and explain all plumbing terms so you understand exactly what is included. Let’s get to work – contact Thomas & Galbraith today!

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