Common Plumbing Terms Explained

plumbing parts

As plumbing experts, it’s easy for the team at Home Ace Plumbing to forget sometimes that our customers aren’t as steeped in plumbing terminology and jargon as we’ve been. While we try to be as transparent about what we’re doing as possible, and try to keep our explanations in plain English, sometimes a bit of jargon slips through — and sometimes, there’s really only one term to explain what’s going on. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some common plumbing terms and their explanations.

ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is a common plastic used in everything from Lego to injection molding. Plumbers know it as a type of plastic pipe for vents and drains.

Aerator: When it’s under pressure, water tends to splash. When an aerator is added to a faucet, it adds air to the water flow and prevents splashing.

Angle Valve: These are 90-degree valves commonly used as emergency shut offs for many common appliances.

Backflow: Wastewater should only go one way — out. However, that flow can sometimes reverse. That phenomenon, called backflow can contaminate potable water or cause contamination to back up into your home. In many types of plumbing systems and fixtures — especially sprinkler systems, showers, and sprayers — a backflow preventer keeps backflow from happening.

Ball Joint: A ball joint allows for a fuller range of motion for shower heads and certain other plumbing fixtures.

BTU: British Thermal Unit. This is commonly found on appliances like window air conditioners, water heaters, and furnaces. It’s the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit at sea level.

Bushing: The pipes we need to join aren’t always the same size. Bushings are threaded on their interior and exterior and allow us to fit pipes of varying sizes together.

China: While this isn’t the stuff found in your kitchen cabinets, china (also called “vitreous china”) is made on a similar principle; it’s a strong and waterproof type of porcelain that’s glazed and kiln-fired, often used for toilets.

Fitting: Two pipes won’t always be directly joined to each other, especially when they need to go around corners or bends, or if two different types of pipe need to be joined. Fittings are intermediate parts that enable pipes to be joined.

Flow Rate: The amount of water that flows through a plumbing system, usually expressed in GPM (gallons per minute) or GPH (gallons per hour).

GPF: Gallons per flush, the amount of water used to flush the toilet.

Grease Trap: Normally found in commercial kitchens and food processing, a grease trap sequesters oils and grease so they don’t build up in drains and sewers.

Hard Water: Hard water is potable water with high concentrations of calcium and magnesium. While it’s GRAS (generally regarded as safe) for human consumption, it may have an odd taste, reacts with some cleaning products, and can leave scaly deposits that can clog shower heads, clog or damage coffee makers and other appliances, and leave spots on dishes and silverware.

Plumbing / Plumber: Our trade gets its name from the Latin word “plumbum” (lead), the material from which pipes used to be made.

PB: Polybutylene is a flexible plastic pipe commonly used in plumbing. It should not be confused with Pb (the chemical symbol for lead).

PEX: Cross-linked polyethylene is a newer type of flexible pipe that retains its flexibility better than PB pipe (qv).

PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride is a type of plastic used in outflow pipes (drains and wastewater handling) as well as some types of vents. Another variant of PVC, called CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride) may be used for potable water piping.

Scald Guard: Installed in showers to regulate hot and cold water pressure so that the temperature stays uniform even if someone’s running the sink or flushes the toilet while the shower is in use.

Septic Tank: A holding tank for household waste, which is broken down by bacteria before being diverted to a septic field, whereupon it’s gradually filtered and reabsorbed by the surrounding soil.
If you’re mystified by plumbing — or if you just need Sacramento plumbing service you can trust — Ace Plumbing is here for all your plumbing needs!