Plumbing Terminology You Need to Know

Pieces of Copper Pipes

When it comes to plumbing, a little bit of humor goes a long way.  Fortunately, there are some pretty funny sounding terms and phrases that we use to describe some of the most essential plumbing gadgets and procedures, and if you’ve never heard these terms before, they’re sure to make you smile.  Let’s take a look at some that you can add to your vocabulary list to make your plumbing projects run smoother and your understanding of professional plumbing actions easier.  

Plumbing Terminology Every Homeowner Should Know

Aerator – This is a device that’s screwed into the end of a faucet spout that mixes air into flowing water and controls flow to reduce splashing.  

Ballcock – This is the fill valve that controls the flow of water from the water supply line into a gravity-operated toilet tank.

Discharge Head – This is the difference in elevation between the liquid level of the discharge tank and the centerline pump.

Drip Channel – Doesn’t this sound like it would be a special TV channel just for plumbers? This is actually a metal channel that is designed to prevent water from running down a shower door, dripping onto the floor when the door is opened.

Flapper – This is the hinged, movable part of a type of shut-off valve that prevents or shuts off flow.  You’re probably most familiar with the type of flapper that is found at the bottom of a toilet water tank.  It’s raised to start the flush cycle and closes when the tank is empty, allowing it to refill.

Hose – This is a flexible rubber or plastic tube that carries water.  Some, like garden hoses, have special fittings to connect them to the hose bibb and attachments.

Hose Bibb – This is an external or internal valved water fitting to which a water hose is connected.  It’s more commonly called a spigot or faucet.  If you live in colder regions, you may have heard plumbers talk about “frost free hose bibbs“. 

Nipple – In plumbing, this term has nothing to do with anatomy.  This refers to a short length of pipe that’s installed between couplings or other fillings.

O-Ring – Unrelated to a Space Shuttle O-ring, this is a round rubber washer that’s used to create a watertight seal, primarily around valve stems.

Snake – Don’t fear; this is not a reptile.  This is a long, flexible metal wire or coil that’s used for cleaning drains.  It’s also called a plumber’s snake.

Sump Pump – This is a pump that’s used to remove water from a collection pit.

Sweating the Pipe – This refers to the process of soldering two pipe fittings together so that water can’t leak out.

Snap-On Cockhole Cover – This is a round plate that’s used to cover unused faucet holes in your sink.

Male Hose and Female Fitting – In plumbing-speak, this is also referred to as mating.  Anything with threading on the outside is considered as male, and anything with threading on the inside is female.  Male parts can only be attached to female ones.

Hardness Leakage – This refers to leftover traces of hardness in the mineral bed caused by calcium and magnesium deposits.

Though funny in sound, these common plumbing elements are some that keep your systems together and running in top order.  So, study up, learn something new, and next time you need to give us a call, you’ll have a better handle on the situation to describe the issues you may be facing so that we can take care of it, fast.  


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