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Plumbing Dictionary: Words You May Need to Know When Dealing with Plumbing Issues

If you’re not sure what your plumber is talking about, this mini-dictionary might help you out. Here are 15 of the most common plumbing terms that homeowners need to know.

Auger: A flexible metal rod made of spring-like material, with a cutting or clearing device on one end. It is used to clear clogs in drains. It’s also called a plumber’s snake.

Copper piping: Water lines, especially for drinking water, are often made of copper or a copper alloy.

Drain: The opening to a piping system that is used to remove wastewater from a fixture or system and transport it to the sewer system.

Faucet: A sink fixture that controls water flow. While many faucets come with two handles (hot and cold), some faucets have a mixing valve that allows the user to alter the temperature of the water from hot to cold.

Flapper: The hinged, movable part of a type of shut off valve that is found at the bottom of a toilet tank. It is pulled up to start the flush cycle and drops closed when the tank is empty, allowing it to refill.

Float valve: A type of control valve used in toilet tanks that shuts off the water at a predetermined level.

GPM: Gallons per minute. Toilets and other fixtures will indicate how many gallons of water per minute they use to operate.

P-trap: A drainpipe designed in the shape of a “P” that has fallen over. You can find it under your sinks and other fixtures. The shape is designed to trap a small quantity of water in the pipe, preventing sewer odors from coming back up the drain.

PVC: Polyvinyl chloride is a synthetic plastic polymer used to make plumbing pipes.

Sanitary sewer system: The drain piping that carries wastewater from the house’s sinks, tubs and toilets to the municipal sewer system.

Shutoff valve: Any piping valve that stops the flow of water in the pipe. Your home will have a main water meter shutoff valve and several other shutoff valves beside toilets and under sinks and other fixtures.

Tankless water heater: A newer style of water heater that does not use a holding tank. Instead, water is heated on demand after the unit detects water flow. These units are usually heated by natural gas burners.

Vent stack: These vent pipes equalize the pressure in the drain system with the atmospheric pressure. When water flows through pipes it pushes air (sewer gas) that needs to be able to escape. The vent stack allows gases (and smells) to exit your house through the roof.

Wastewater: Water that is used in your home and goes down the drain. It must be treated before reuse.

Water meter: A gauge used to measure the amount of water flow in a system, measured in gallons.

You can use this list to clear up your confusion more quickly than your plumber can clear out your drain!

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