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Which Plumbing Terms Should You Know?

Whether you’re a new homeowner or a years-long veteran, you know there’s a lot that goes into making a house a home. One of these is knowing what’s what: being able to accurately describe a household issue to your plumber or electrician can make a big difference in getting you the best and most efficient service, as well as knowing when the problem is a quick fix or requires extra assistance.

Because plumbing is a specialized profession, there are a lot of terms that most people aren’t familiar with. While we at Four Seasons in Asheville might know the plumbing dictionary up and down, most homeowners do not. So whether you want to educate yourself on the more obscure plumbing lingo or be able to have more in-depth conversations with your plumber, this list will introduce some of the plumbing terms you should know before your next home repair.

Plumbing Trap

Every drain has to have what’s known as a plumbing trap, which is the P or S shaped pipe under your bathroom or kitchen sink. A pool of water collects there to seal the drain, and is also what catches solid objects to stop them from clogging it. The plumbing trap also keeps sewer gasses and unwanted bugs or vermin from crawling up the pipes in the other direction. You’ll find the same built-in trap in your toilet.

Air Gap

The space between the flood rim of your sink and the water outlet that delivers water is called the air gap. It is what keeps your drinking water safe, and it does this by preventing backflow from the sink drain to the dishwasher, keeping your drinking water clean and free from contaminants. Your air gap probably looks like a dome-shaped fitting at the back corner of your kitchen sink.

Cheater Valve

Also known as an air admittance valve, or AAV, a cheater valve is a mechanical venting device that opens to allow air into a pipe when water is flowing through it. This gives plumbers an easy way to vent a fixture drain that is far away from the main vent stack, such as an island sink. Cheater valves have only recently been approved by most plumbing authorities, so make sure to check your local regulations before installing one. Or better yet, give Four Seasons a call and we’ll tell you what you need to know.

Closet Auger

A closet auger is a flexible rod which is inserted into a toilet to clear a clogged drain. Its flexibility allows it to reach into the S or P shaped trap and remove any stuck objects. While these appear to be simple tools, they’re harder to use than they look, and you may be better voff getting a professional to assist you.

Sump Pump

If you have a basement, particularly one that is prone to flooding, then you probably have a sump pump. This is a pump that sits in a pit, or basin, that is carved underneath your basement floor. When water accumulates, the sump pump pushes the water outside of the home, preventing floods and water damage.

Gray/Black Water

Gray and black water do not actually refer to color, but rather the quality or identity of a water after it’s been contaminated. Water that pours from a faucet or into a toilet tank is clear. Once it has entered the drain, it becomes either gray or black water. Gray water is water that has gone through a sink, tub, shower, dishwasher, or washing machine. Black water has gone through the toilet, and potentially contains dangerous pathogens.

The biggest difference between these two is that gray water can be collected and reused to water your flowers or lawn, while black water ultimately flows into the sewer or septic system, and should not be handled prior.

Flapper valve

Most of the common plumbing issues you’ll deal with involve the toilet. Becoming acquainted with the names of what’s under the lid can make it easier to identify the source of any given problem. The flapper valve is at the bottom of the toilet water tank, and connects it to the toilet bowl. When the flapper valve opens, water flows from the tank into the bowl. It’s connected to the handle by the lift rods and overflow tubes, two other good terms to know.

Are there any other terms you’d like to learn? If you have questions or need an emergency plumber in Asheville, NC, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Four Seasons for all your plumbing needs.

Max Rose - Owner of Four Seasons Plumbing


Max Rose

Max Rose is the owner of Four Seasons Plumbing, a plumbing company in Asheville, North Carolina.