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Plumbing Terminology Every Homeowner Should Know


If you need plumbing services, you need to know what certain plumbing terms mean. Understanding the following terms will prevent any confusion when getting a quote or paying a bill. Some terms may be basic, but you should know all the terms to communicate clearly with a plumber.

Plumbing Drain

A drain represents an opening in a sink, shower, or washing machine that directs wastewater to the pipes in a plumbing system and into the sewer lines outside. Drains may be open or feature a protective trap to capture stray hairs or small debris.


A flapper is an adjustable shut-off valve found at the bottom of a toilet’s tank. The flapper opens and closes when you use the handle, causing the toilet to flush. It works with the float valve in the tank – the balloon that levels off after the tank refills.

Shut-off Valve

Any plumbing fixture, appliance, or faucet in the home features a shut-off valve. You use the valve to switch off the water when a fixture leaks or your toilet backs up. Turning off the shut-off valve for a specific fixture will not affect the water use in the rest of the house.

P-Traps and S-Traps

P-traps or S-traps prevent sewer gas from entering inside a home after flushing waste. The term refers to the pipe’s shape. The curved designs of the pipes trap a small amount of water at the bottom to prevent and neutralize the sewer odors.

Septic System

Pipes that do not connect to the major sewer system in a city are part of a septic system. The septic system includes a septic tank, septic field, and pipes that connect. Enzymes and bacteria inside a septic tank break down the wastes, with the remaining material seeping into a septic field.

Augers and Snakes

An auger or snake removes clogs from drains, toilets, or underground pipes. Augers and snakes represent flexible metal rods that come in various shapes that feature a curved end. A plumber uses an auger to unclog larger drains or underground drain lines.

Drain augers clear lines, usually 1.5-inches to 3-inches in size, while drain snakes clear smaller lines, typically 1.25 inches to 2 inches in size. Both tools basically work the same way. The drum for a snake or auger holds from a few feet to 100+ feet of cable.

The plumber feeds the cable into the drain, using a twisting action to push through the clog or loosen it before removing it.

Backflow and Overflow

Backflow refers to water traveling back through the main plumbing system along the pipes. Backflow may happen outside the home and cause drains to hold rising water simultaneously or within a single pipe.

An overflow occurs when a clog in the pipes prevents water from draining into the outside sewer lines. Both types of flow problems can lead to a sewer line issue, such as a burst pipe.

Professional Plumbing Services in Nashville

Plumbing issues can arise at any moment so it’s important to be prepared. Our skilled and experienced plumbers are available to assist you 24/7. No matter what time of day, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing of Nashville is here for you. Give our licensed and local plumbing pros a call today at (615) 590-3240.