Plumbing Terms You Should Know

Homeowners that do even the most basic plumbing DIY should have a few plumbing terms under their belt. Knowing few common plumbing terms can help you understand your plumbing better or communicate with your plumber better. Here are a few basics.

Shut-Off Valve

The shut-off valve is an important term to know if you have an issue with your toilet or sink. It is a valve that will shut off the water to that fixture. It is usually located underneath the toilet or sink. If water is overflowing or you are making repairs, you will want to know where the shut-off valve is.

Augers and Snakes

In plumbing terms, augers and snakes are tools used to clear drain and toilet clogs. An auger is a flexible metal rod that you can direct into the drain, and it will help break up the clog. These are for you more heavy-duty clogs. A snake works on the same principle. They sell more basic plumbing snakes at hardware stores which are good to have on hand for stubborn clogs.


If you have ever had to lift the lid off a toilet, you should know what a flapper is. The flapper valve is the rubber plug at the bottom of your toilet’s tank. It opens and allows water to flow from the tank to the toilet bowl.

Overflow Drain

Know drain plumbing terms can also help you communicate where your problem lies. Overflow drains are in both bathtubs and sinks. The overflow drain usually has a metal cover to make it more aesthetically pleasing. They prevent water from flowing over the edge of the tub or sink if the water is left to run.

Float Valve

A float valve is a term used for your toilet. It shuts the water off when it reaches the desired level in the tank of your toilet. You can adjust the water level in your toilet’s tank by using the knob on the float valve.

Gray Water and Black Water

Certain plumbing terms are also helpful to know when it comes to the aftermath of plumbing disasters. Many refer to contaminated water as gray or black water. Gray water is water used in a shower or sink but does not contain any sewage. Black water is water that has overflowed from the toilet or has come from the sewer and usually needs specialized methods of clean up.


You have probably heard a few plumbing terms like water main, if not in person, then in movies. The main is the primary channel that water enters your home. A water company’s meter measures the water going through your mainline.


You may not need to know this one unless you are replacing your valves. The O-ring is what creates a watertight seal around the valves and is usually made of rubber. When they wear out, they could be the culprit behind that leaky faucet.


The trap is the S or P-shaped pipe in your plumbing. These hold water to prevent gas from escaping. You find traps in sinks, toilets, and other drains. Problems arise when there is no water in the trap, or it becomes clogged.

You do not need to know everything about plumbing, but sometimes it is good to inform yourself on a few plumbing terms to communicate your needs better. However, a plumber can always help you whenever you have a problem! Call Valley Fire Protection & Plumbing to set up your service call today.

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By: Tom Hartel
I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.


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