Glossary of Common Plumbing Terms

As professionals in the plumbing industry, we use a wide range of weird and wonderful terms to describe plumbing tools and systems. To help familiarize you with some of the most common terms you might hear from your plumber in Dallas, TX, or read on our service pages and blogs; we've compiled a list of these terms and their definitions.

A

Angle Stop: An emergency shut-off valve that is located between the plumbing system and water-using appliances, such as toilets and faucets. Also called a compression valve.

Anode Rod: An aluminum or magnesium rod that attracts corrosive minerals within the water supply of a hot water tank. Also called a sacrificial anode.

B

Backflow: A term used to describe the process of water coming back up the pipe system and out of plumbing fixtures. This is often caused by clogs or flooding. Backflow can contaminate fresh water with fertilizers, waste, and detergents.

Backflow Prevention Device: A device installed in one-way pipes to prevent backflow from occurring. These are often installed in homes where backflow is a risk in order to prevent the contamination of drinking water. Also called a backwater valve or sewer backup valve.

Ballcock: Used in toilet tanks to prevent the tank from overflowing, this mechanical valve is composed of a floating ball, arm, and valve. When the water level reaches the desired height, the ball will float and cause the valve to shut and seal.

Black Water: A term used to refer to the wastewater that comes from toilets. The term ‘black’ is used to denote the potential presence of bacteria and diseases that may make this water harmful to human health.

Boiler: A device used to heat the home by turning water into steam. Produced steam is then pushed through the pipes within the building. Unlike water heaters, boilers do not necessarily use potable water.

Brittle: When pipes become old or damaged, they can crumble or shatter into small, hard fragments. Plumbers often refer to these pipes as brittle.

Burst Pipe: When a pipe ruptures due to damage caused by age, corrosion, tree roots, or temperature fluctuations and causes sudden water damage, it is referred to as a burst pipe.

C

Chemical Drain Cleaner: Commercially available to consumers, this solution may be poured down a drain to loosen up a clog. There are three types of chemical drain cleaners: acidic, oxidizing, and caustic. All can be harsh on human health and the plumbing system.

Clogged Drain: When debris like food waste, hair, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and even soaps containing fats are frequently washed or flushed down the drain, they can build up and cause stoppages. Using soaps that don’t clog drains, hair catchers, and grease traps can help prevent clogged drains in Dallas.

Closet Auger: A device composed of a long metal coil and a hand crank that is used to break up and/or remove obstructions in toilet lines. Also known as a toilet auger or plumbing snake.

Conventional Water Heater: A type of hot water heater that heats water in advance and then stores it in a large tank for use when needed. These heaters may run on electricity or gas.

Corrosion: In plumbing, corrosion refers to the process of a chemical reaction during which metal breaks down and disintegrates. Pipes may corrode over time, and some chemical drain cleaners can be corrosive.

D

Diagnosis: After your plumber inspects a commercial or residential property, they will provide a diagnosis (or cause) of the plumbing issue.

Dip Tube: The component of a hot water tank that sends cold water to the bottom so that any unused hot water remains at the top for use.

E

Effluent: The outflow of contaminated water from the plumbing system or fixtures. Typically used to describe sewage water.

Energy Efficiency: The amount of energy required to complete a process. The higher the energy efficiency, the lower the energy use. Greater energy efficiency typically reduces an energy bill.

Energy Factor (EF): The energy efficiency of a hot water heater is calculated by measuring the recovery efficiency, standby losses, and cycling losses. The higher the EF, the greater the energy efficiency.

Enzymes: Proteins that speed up chemical reactions. Using enzymatic cleaners is a safe and natural way to clear drain clogs made up of organic matter, such as hair and food waste.

F

Fittings: Used to attach lengths of pipe to each other. There are four main types of fittings: wye, tee, cross, and elbow. Also known as pipe connectors.

Fixture: Any device that allows fresh water to enter and exit the plumbing system. These include faucets, toilets, showers, tubs, and sinks.

Flapper Valve: A rubber plug that allows water to flow from the tank of a toilet into the bowl. A leaking toilet is often caused by a flapper valve that is no longer sealing properly.

Flow Rate: The speed of water flow through a pipe. Measured in GPM (gallons per minute).

FOG: A commonly used acronym for fats, oils, and grease. FOG is often the cause of clogged drains.

Freshwater: Clean water that may or may not be potable. Freshwater does not contain a high salt content like seawater.

Frozen Pipe: An improperly insulated pipe that sustains damage when the water inside and around it freezes. When water freezes, it expands, causing pipes to crack under pressure.

G

Garbage Disposal: A device mounted beneath a kitchen sink that grinds down food waste before it enters the plumbing system.

Gasket: A thin disk used to create a tight seal between pipe flanges. It may be made of metals like iron and stainless steel, non-metals like rubber, Teflon, and graphite, or composites of both metals and non-metals.

GPF (gallons per flush): A type of measurement used to determine the number of gallons of water used for every toilet flush. The higher the GPF, the more water that will be used.

Gray Water: Wastewater that comes from all fixtures except toilets. Sinks, showers, washing machines, and dishwashers all produce gray water. Because no fecal matter or urine is present, gray water poses fewer health risks than black water.

Grease Trap: A device that separates fats, oils, and grease from water and prevents them from continuing down the drain with the rest of the gray water. These traps can also catch small sediments.

Groundwater: Freshwater that is found beneath the earth’s surface. Groundwater is usually contained within the soil and fractured rock and is produced by rainfall and snowmelt.

H

Hairline Crack: A very small crack in a pipe. This type of crack may not be visible to the eye but can be identified by slow drips. If not repaired early, a hairline crack can develop into a larger crack.

Hard Water: A type of freshwater that contains a high content of magnesium and calcium particles. It may be measured in milligrams per liter (mg/L), grains per gallon (gpg), or parts per million (ppm). If a water softener is not used, hard water can cause clogs and pipe corrosion.

Hose Bibb: The plumbing fixture on the exterior of the home to which a hose is often attached. Also called an exterior faucet.

Hybrid Water Heater: A type of water heater that uses an electrically powered pump to draw warmth from the surrounding air into water within a tank. The most energy-efficient hot water heater on the market today.

Hydraulic Replacement: A technique for pipe replacement that involves pulling new sewer pipes through old, damaged pipes. Hydraulic technology is used to break apart the damaged pipe and leave the new one in its place.

HydroScrub® Jetting: A system that uses highly pressurized water to clear out tough clogs and all other debris within a pipe. One of the most effective Dallas drain cleaning techniques.

J

Joints: A method for attaching two or more pipes together. Joints may be threaded, screwed-in, welded, brazed, grooved, soldered, compressed, or flanged.

O

O-Ring: A type of gasket commonly used in plumbing fixtures. Instead of being flat like many other gasket types, O-rings are rounded and have a very large opening in the center.

P

P-Trap: A U-shaped piece of piping found underneath sinks. Intended to trap debris to prevent clogs and block gasses from sewage from seeping out of pipes and into your home.

Pipe Pull™: A technique used to replace damaged sewer or water pipes with new pipes. To use this technique, only a small hole in the ground at the beginning and end of a run of the piping is required, making it non-invasive.

Pipe Relining: A pipe replacement technique in which an old pipe is used as the mold for the new one. This technique involves inserting a soft lining into the damaged pipe. Air is then used to inflate the lining until it hardens, creating a brand new pipe.

Pipe Replacement: When a pipe is too damaged to be repaired, it can be replaced using hydraulic replacement or pipe relining.

Pipe Rerouting: The process during which the route of a plumbing system is altered by cutting off access to some pipes and creating a new route in its place. This method is commonly used to address slab leaks.

Plumbing Emergency: A plumbing event that occurs suddenly and requires immediate attention to prevent significant damage. Emergency service is commonly provided by many plumbing companies.

Potable: A term used to describe fresh water or groundwater that can be safely consumed without needing treatment, filtration, or boiling.

Preventative Maintenance: A preventative strategy used to reduce the chance of a plumbing emergency and increase the lifespan of the plumbing system.

PSI (pounds per square inch): A measurement term used to describe the amount of gas pressure or water pressure. The higher the PSI, the greater the pressure.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride): A durable, low-cost plastic material frequently used for pipes. Used for cold water, vent systems, and drainage systems. Not suitable for hot water.

S

Septic Tank: A large underground sewage tank made from fiberglass, concrete, or polyethylene. Commonly found in rural areas where connection to a city sewage system is not possible.

Sewage: A combination of water and solid waste that is transported through sewers for disposal and processing. Differs from black water in that it is not simply wastewater containing fecal matter but is a suspension of solids within the water.

Sewer Line: The plumbing system beneath your home that transports sewage to the city’s main sewer line. Commonly hidden under the foundation of the home. There are special techniques used for sewer line repair.

Slab Leak: A plumbing leak that occurs within the pipes under the foundation (or slab) of a building. This issue is difficult to fix without destroying the foundation, so pipe rerouting is commonly used instead of repairing the existing leak.

Soil Probe: Also called a pipe probe, this device is used to detect the location of leaks underground. This tool works in a similar way to a stethoscope.

Sump Pump: Used to prevent basement flooding, this device pumps water out from the ground beneath the basement and away from the property towards an area with adequate drainage.

T

Tankless Water Heater: A type of gas or electrically powered hot water heater that does not store hot water in a tank but instead heats it on demand. This heater is more energy-efficient than a conventional hot water heater.

Tree Root Invasion: A common cause of damaged sewer and water lines beneath the ground. Tree roots can either poke holes in pipes or create a blockage inside of them.

Trenchless Sewer Line Repair: A non-invasive method of sewer line repair. Instead of digging up large areas of a yard, small holes are made in the earth to conduct pipe relining or hydraulic pipe bursting.

V

Vent Stack: Vertical piping that is installed not to transport fresh water and wastewater but to provide air circulation within the plumbing system.

Video Camera Inspection: An inspection method used by professional plumbers to diagnose a plumbing issue. Conducted by inserting a small camera down a drain and into the plumbing system. Live video is used to identify cracks and obstructions.

W

Wastewater: The product of used freshwater. Wastewater is black water containing sewage or gray water containing all other types of waste and debris.

Water Heater: A type of equipment used to store and heat water for use in kitchens, dishwashers, washing machines, faucets, showers, and baths.

Water Meter: A device used to measure the quantity of water that passes through a plumbing system. Utility companies use water meters to determine how much to charge their customers, but they may also be used by homeowners to help detect a hidden leak.

Water Pressure: The force behind water movement that determines the speed at which it travels. High-pressure results in fast-moving water.

Water Pump: A device used to transfer water from one place to another. Types of pumps include sump pumps, trash pumps, transfer pumps, sewage effluent pumps, sprinkler pumps, and boosting pumps.

Water Softener: A filtration system that removes magnesium and calcium from hard water. Filters within a water softener are designed to attract positively-charged minerals to it like a magnet.

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