I Need What Part?

One of the first things you learn as a homeowner is that you may own your home, but you don’t actually live in it full time. You get to spend the rest of your time living in the hardware store or hardware dept of your local retail store. Unfortunately the older the home the more frequent you visit this vast place with aisles and aisles of thingies and who whos, that previously meant little more than, ”…that aisle that my dad use to get all kinds of shiny pipes, connectors, and silver and brass things.” A place where he spent many hours, (and you will too), talking about stuff with strange names and even stranger looking objects’d plumbing.

For now I’m just going to talk about plumbing. The first thing to realize is that older homes have plumbing systems that use galvanized pipe, which will corrode over time, leading to low pressure and leaks, (modern homes use copper and flexible pipe). Also in most modern homes there are usually “stop valves”, (these are the little turn thingies) under each sink and toilet in the house, the most important one is the main water cut off. KNOW WHERE THIS IS LOCATED!! Or be ready to watch “Ole Faithful” wash your ceiling.

So, as a result of my many “Trial by Water” episodes of plumbing problems, I thought it time to clarify some of the incorrect definitions of plumbing terms with the correct ones used by the pros, at least, the “pros” in my local hardware store. These are all terms that I have come across in my attempts (more failures and disasters than success stories) to rectify some problems I have encountered with my 20 year old home.

1) ABS pipe… not to be confused with PVC pipe


…It is a rigid black plastic pipe used for drain, waste and vent lines.

PVC-Polyvinyl Chloride:

…It is a rigid white or cream colored plastic pipe used in non-pressure systems, such as drainage, waste and vent systems.

2) Aerator:

This is not biology…. it is NOT part of a woman’s anatomy.

…It is a device screwed into the end of a faucet spout that mixes air into flowing water, and controls flow to reduce splashing.

3) Drip Channel:

This is not a TV channel for plumbers, or your spouse’s cousin.

…A metal channel that is designed to prevent water running down a shower door from dripping onto the floor when the door is opened.

4) Fitting:

No, not a “dry” run of putting all the parts together to see if they “fit”, also included here to point out another bunch of terms to look-up.

…Any pipe part used to join together two sections of pipe, such as elbows, couplings, bushings, bends, wyes, etc.

5) Flow Rate:

Wrong…how high the water spouts out of the tap when the handle breaks off and the water is still turned on.

…Rating in gallons per minute (GPM) or gallons per hour. (GPH)

6) Nipple:

Again..this is NOT anatomy

…A short length of pipe installed between couplings or other fittings.

7) O-Ring:

Has absolutely nothing to do with a Space Shuttle although they serve a slightly similar purpose.

…It is a round rubber washer used to create a water tight seal, chiefly around valve stems.

8) Snake;

All I could envision here was a real sake put into the toilet to “eat” anything in its path on the way to the septic tank, then the screams of the next person “using” the toilet when the snake returns.

…A long, highly flexible metal wire or coil used for cleaning drains. Also called plumber’s snake.

9) Stillson Wrench:

Not a hat that looks like a pipe wrench.

…It is a large L shaped pipe wrench. It has jaws that are adjustable and will tighten as pressure on the handle is increased. It is also known as a pipe wrench.

10) Teflon Tape:

Not a how to video of plumbing projects involving plastics.

…A fluorocarbon polymer with non-sticking properties used to wrap pipe threads to seal a joint.

11) Yoke:

This is not a funny story by a Swedish plumber.

…It is usually a brass casting that holds both the hot and cold valves and the mixing chamber for the water.

If you have a plumbing problem and are not sure about how plumbing works, this is not a time to experiment. Take it from personal experience, the disasters you can create are not worth the need to say “humph who needs a plumber..I can fix this!” Do yourself a BIG favor and consult a plumber. If it is a small job that you can confidently fix yourself I have but one piece of advice to give…shut off the water first!!!!!!!

…and that is about it except for these final words that my late father always said:

A good flush beats a full house every time.

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