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Plumbing Glossary

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Plumbing :: Glossary of Terms & Definitions

Scroll through the page or click on the first letter of the word you are looking for.

[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [f] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z]

A

ABS:
(Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) a rigid black plastic pipe used for drain, wastes, and vents lines.
Acrylic:
A glassy thermoplastic cast and molded shapes to structure the surface of shower bases, bathtubs, and whirlpools.
Activated Sludge:
Sludge withdrawn from the secondary clarifier in the activated sludge process, consisting of micro-organisms, nonliving organic matter and inorganic materials.
Adsorption:
The attachment of compounds to the chemically active groups on the surface and in the pores of an ion exchange resin.
Aeration:
The process or method of bringing about intimate contact between air and a liquid.
Aerator:
A small device that is normally at the end of a faucet spout, used to mix air into flowing water to reduce splashing.
Aerobic Bacteria:
Bacteria which require free (elementary) oxygen for their growth.
Air Lock:
Blockage in the flow of liquid, particularly on the suction side of a pump caused by an air bubble in the line.
Anaerobic Bacteria:
Bacteria which grow in the absence of free oxygen and derive oxygen from breaking down complex substances.
Angle Stop:
A shutoff valve between the faucet or toilet and the water pipes. It connects the water supply in a wall and its outlet angles up 90 degrees toward the faucet or toilet.
Anion:
the ion in an electrolyzed solution that migrates to the anode: a negatively charged ion.
Annealed:
To subject (glass or metal) to a process of heating and cooling in order to toughen and reduce brittleness.
Anode Rod:
A sacrificial rod installed in a water heater that protects the tank from corrosion, helping to extend the life of the tank.
Anti-Scald:
A valve that limits water flow to help prevent burn injuries.
Anti-Siphon:
A device that prevents the backflow of liquid into a system. Commonly used on sprinkler systems to prevent water from dripping back into the supply that is feeding it.
Attrition:
the breakage and abrasion of resin beads.

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B

Back Flow Preventer:
A device to avoid water from traveling from one system back into any part of the main distribution system. This is generally vital for sprinkler systems, handheld showers, kitchen sprayers pullout faucet spouts, handheld showers, etc
Back Pressure:
Pressure that resists the flow of fluid in a piping system.
Ballcock:
A fill valve device that controls the flow of water from the water supply line into a gravity-operated toilet tank.
Bed:
the ion exchange resin or filter media contained in a column or vessel.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD):
A quantitative measure of the oxygen needed by bacteria and microorganisms for the biological oxidation of organic wastes in a unit volume of waste water. BOD is generally measured in milligrams per liter (rng/1) of oxygen consumed over a five-day period. Although complete biological decomposition of, organic waste requires about 20 days, the five-day BOD is about two-thirds of the total oxygen requirement and, therefore, is a practical measure of waste concentration. In waste treatment language, BOD is most frequently stated as the percentage removed during treatment, or remaining after treatment.
Biological Oxidation:
The process by which bacteria and other types of micro-organisms consume dissolved oxygen and organic substances in waste water: using the energy released to convert organic carbon into carbon dioxide and cellular material.
Blowbag:
A drain-cleaning device contains a rubber bladder with a hose fitting on one end and a nozzle on the other. It attaches to a water hose and is inserted into a clogged drainpipe.
Braided:
to form (three or more strands) into a braid.
Brine seal:
Ring made from flexible plastic material placed on element end cap in order to prevent flow bypass around the outside of an element.
Bypass:
A pipe or channel used to conduct gas or liquid around another pipe or a fixture.

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C

Cast Iron:
Heavy metal formed by casting in molds.
Cathode:
the electrode of an electrochemical cell at which reduction occurs.
Cation:
the ion in an electrolyzed solution that migrates to the cathode: Positively charged ion.
Centerset:
A Style of bathroom faucet having combined spout and handles, with handles 4 inches apart, center-to-center. Also a single-handle faucet usually, installed on 4 inches center-to-center faucet holes.
Ceramic Disk Valve:
A valve that relies on two-part revolving disks in a sealed cylinder. Each disk has a port in it that, when aligned with the other, it will allow water to pass through.
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD):
A quantitative measure of the amount of oxygen required to oxidize all organic components in a unit volume on waste water - non-biodegradable as well as the BOD. The COD level can be determined more readily than BOD, but this measurement does not indicate how much of the waste can be decomposed by biological oxidation.
Chlorination:
The application of chlorine to water, sewage, or industrial wastes, generally for the purpose of disinfection, but frequently for accomplishing other biological or chemical results.
Coagulation:
The agglomeration of colloidal or suspended matter brought about by the addition of some chemical to the liquid, by contact, or by other means.
Cleanout Plug:
A plug in a trap or drain pipe that provides access for the purpose of clearing an obstruction.
Cock:
A valve used for regulating water flow.
Combined Sewer:
Carries both sanitary sewage and storm water run-off.
Compression Fitting:
A sealed pipe connection without soldering. As you tighten a nut on one fitting, it compresses a washer around the second pipe, forming a watertight closure.
Compression Valve:
A type of valve that is often used for water faucets. It is opened or closed by raising or lowering a horizontal disk by a threaded stem.
Console Lavatory:
A lavatory in which the basin is attached by table or piano legs at the front and to a wall at the back.
Corrode:
To wear away gradually usually by chemical action. To weaken or destroy gradually.
Corrugated:
To shape into folds or parallel and alternating ridges and grooves. Falcon Corrugated Stainless Steel Connectors.
Coupling:
Vent pipe hood, which protects it from the elements.
Crimp:
to cause to become wavy, bent, or pinched.
Cross-linkage:
Binding of the linear polymer chains in the matrix of an ion exchange resin with a cross-linking agent that produces a three-dimensional, insoluble polymer.

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D

Desanco Fitting:
A type of compression adapter that connects tubular brass fittings to PVC pipe.
Dielectric:
A nonconductor of direct electric current.
Distributor:
The piping inside an ion exchange vessel which evenly distributes flow across the resin bed.
Diverter:
Valves which have one inlet and direct water to one of two outlets. They are used in showers, tubs, bidets, and sinks.
Ductility:
Capable of being drawn out or hammered thin.
Duo Valve:
A twin valve (hot & cold) with a single on/off lever used for washing machine boxes.

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E

Eductor:
A device that, by flow of water through it creating a vacuum, draws a solution into the water stream.
Elbow:
Angled fitting that changes the direction of the water line.
Electrolysis:
The producing of chemical changes by passage of an electric current through an electrolyte
Enamel:
An opaque vitreous composition applied to the surface of metal fixtures such as cast iron tubs and sinks.
EPDM:
Ethylene Propylene Diamine Monomer is a high density rubber that is very durable.Has some characteristics that make it especially suitable for gaskets, electrical insulation and lamination. EPDM can be finished to an extremely smooth surface. It has great resistance to abrasives, tearing, solvents and high temperatures. EPDM has excellent flexibility at high and low temperatures.
Escutcheon:
A decorative metal flange or trim shield beneath a faucet handle that covers the faucet stem and the hole in the fixture or wall.
Expansion Tank:
A tank designed to absorb excess pressure due to thermal expansion (e.g. closed system).

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F

Female IPS:
Pipe connection where the threads are on the inside of the fitting.
Fitting:
A part used to join two sections of pipe or other fittings together. An example of a fitting is an elbow, bushing, coupling, or Falcon Stainless Connectors.
Fixture:
A broad based term usually referring to sinks, tubs, toilets, and basins.
Flex Hose:
A flexible pipe or tube used to connect water appliances. Falcon Stainless makes the best flex connectors available.
Flow:
to issue or move in a stream.
Flux:
Paste applied to copper pipes and fittings before soldering to help the fusion process and prevent oxidation.

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G

Galvanic:
Of, relating to, or producing a direct current of electricity.
Gas Cock:
Plug valve installed between the main gas line and appliance.
GPM (Gallons per Minute):
The unit of measurement by which flow rate of faucets and showerheads are measured and regulated. Falcon Stainless connectors offer the highest GPM available.
Grit:
Heavy, inorganic matter, such as sand or pebbles.
GPF (Gallons per Flush):
The unit of measurement by which flow rate of toilets are measured and regulated. Current U.S. regulations for toilets require a maximum of 1.6 GPF.
Gelcoat:
Material used to form the surface of some fiberglass bathtubs or showers, it is a colored, polyester resin.

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H

Horizontal Branch:
Lateral drain pipes that run from plumbing fixtures to the waste stack in a building or in the soil.
Hose Bibb:
An outdoor faucet with hose threads on the spout. Also commonly used to supply washing machines and wash basins.
Hydronic:
System of forced hot water.

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I

ID od I.D.:
(Inside Diameter) Diameter measurement from the inside of a pipe. Commonly used for sizing pipe.
Inert:
Deficient in active properties; especially: lacking a usual or anticipated chemical or biological action.
Inlet:
Opening providing an entrance or intake.
Instantaneous Water Heater:
A type of water heater that heats water as it flows through a heat exchanger coil.
Inter-connector:
Piece of plastic used to connect the product water tube of various membrane elements within the same pressure vessel.
IPS:
(Iron Pipe Size) Pipe thread sizing system, the measurement of the outside diameter of a pipe.

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J

No terms for J at this time - send us an email if there is a term you can not find on this page!

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K

Kink:
a short tight twist or curl caused by a doubling or winding of something upon itself.

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L

Lavatory:
Bathroom or washroom sinks.
Leakage :
(hardness, sodium, silica, etc.)
Caused by incomplete regeneration of an ion exchange bed. Since complete regeneration is usually inefficient, most ion exchange processes operate at one half to one third of the total capacity of the ion exchanger.
Lock Nut:
Nut fitted into a piece of pipe and screwed onto another pipe to join the two pieces.

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M

MIP:
(Male Iron Pipe.) Standard external threads on pipe and fittings.
Male Threads:
Threads on the outside of pipes and fittings.
Malleable Fittings:
Fittings made of metal which is soft and pliable.
Mixed Liquor:
The combination of primary effluent and active biological solids (return sludge) in the activated sludge process that is fed into the aeration tank.
Mixed Media Gravity Filter:
A filter using more than one filtering media @ such as coal and sand).
Mixing Valve:
Mixes hot and cold water in the valve to get a set temperature before delivery.
Mechanicals:
The wiring, plumbing and heating and cooling systems in a building; also the components with moving parts such as furnaces, plumbing fixtures, etc.

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N

Nipple:
A short length of pipe installed between couplings or other fittings.
No-Hub Connector:
A connector for no-hub iron pipe contains a rubber sleeve and a stainless steel band secured by hose clamps. A variation, a neoprene sleeve with two adjustable steel bands, is used for connecting dissimilar materials, as when connecting new plastic pipe to an existing cast-iron drainpipe.

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O

O ring:
A round rubber washer is compressed to make a watertight seal, used in compression fittings.
Oakum:
Loosely woven hemp rope that has been treated with oil or other waterproofing agent; it is used to caulk joints in a bell and spigot pipe and fittings.
OD:
Outside Diameter. Common method for sizing pipe, this is a measurement of the diameter of a pipe as taken from the outside edge.
Osmosis:
Phenomenon of solvent flow occurring between two cells containing solutions with different solute concentration separated by a membrane that is permeable to the solvent and impermeable to the solute.
Oxidation:
The conversion of organic material to a more stable form using bacteria, chemicals, or oxygen.

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P

Packing Nut:
Nut that holds the stem of a faucet in position & holds the packing material.
Passivation:
To make inactive or less reactive. To protect (as a solid-state device) against contamination by coating or surface treatment.
pH Value:
A convenient method of expressing small differences in the acidity or alkalinity of solutions. Neutrality = pH 7.1; lower values indicate increasing acidity; higher values indicate increasing alkalinity.
Pitch:
Downward slope of a drain pipe in the direction of the water flow.
Pop-Up Drain:
Relies on a lever or rod to lift or pop up the drain stopper.
Potable Water:
Water fit for human consumption.
PSI:
Refers to the unit of measure of pressure Pounds per Square Inch.
Pressure Balance Valve:
Shower mixing valve that automatically maintains balance pressure.
Pressure/Temperature Relief Valve:
A valve which opens upon rising inlet pressure.
Pressure Tank:
Device used to pump water from a well.
PVC:
Polyvinyl chloride. A rigid white or cream-colored plastic pipe used in non-pressure systems, such as drainage, waste, and vent systems.

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Q

No terms for Q at this time - send us an email if there is a term you can not find on this page!

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R

Radius:
A line segment extending from the center of a circle or sphere to the circumference or bounding surface.
Raw water:
Untreated water from wells, surface sources or the sea.
Reducer:
A pipe fitting used for joining pipes with different diameters together.
Rigid Pipe:
Pipe designed to transmit the backfill load to the foundation beneath the pipe. Rigid pipe must be supported on the bottom portion of the pipe.
Riser:
Vertical pipe that feeds water to a fixture.
Rough-In:
Installation of the drain, waste, vent, and supply lines in a structure to the proposed location of each fixture.
Rough-In Dimensions:
The distance from a finished wall or floor to the center of the waste or supply opening or mounting holes on a plumbing fixture.

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S

Slip Joint:
A connection.
Sleeve:
Pipe which is passed through a wall for the purpose of inserting another pipe through it made with compression fittings.
Solder:
Metal alloy that is melted to create a fused joint between metal pieces. Also the act of melting solder into the joint.
Spud:
A threaded opening on the water heater tank.
Stainless Steel:
Any of various steels alloyed with at least 10 percent chromium and sometimes containing other elements and that are resistant to corrosion or rusting associated with exposure to water and moist air.
Stand Pipe:
Open vertical pipe that receives water from a washing machine. Also the vertical pipe run supplying water to a fire sprinkler system; also large vertical pipe into which water is pumped in order to produce a desired pressure; a high vertical pipe or reservoir that is used to secure a uniform pressure in a water-supply system.
Stop:
The valve that allows water supply to be cut off to one fixture without affecting the water supply to the entire house or building. Normally used with tubs, sinks, and toilets.
Straight Stop:
Shutoff valve that is installed between the floor and the faucet or toilet on a supply line, and does not change direction.

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T

Tankless Water Heater:
They heat water as it flows through the unit, and do not retain or store any water internally except for what is in the pipe. These units can be powered by electricity, natural gas or propane. These types of heaters are also known as "in-line", or "on-demand" water heaters.
Tailpiece:
Section of pipe that runs between a fixture outlet and the trap.
Tail Pipe:
The pipe added below the jet assembly, in a weak well application.
Tensile strength:
The greatest longitudinal stress a substance can bear without tearing apart.
Thermostatic Valve:
A mixing valve that automatically maintains the temperature setting by regulating fluctuations in water temperature at the water inlets and immediately adjusting the ratio of hot and cold water that is discharged by the valve.
Train:
A single process system capable of producing the treated water desired.
Turbidity:
Deficient in clarity or purity.

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U

Ultrafiltration:
Pressure-driven membrane process used to retain macro solutes with a minimum molecular weight of 1000-1500 Dalton. Frequently used as a pretreatment to RO systems.
Undercounter:
Positioned under the cutout of the countertop is this style of lavatory.
Uni flex:
One piece stop and riser combination.
Union:
Three piece fitting that joins two sections of pipe, but allows them to be disconnected without cutting the pipe. Used primarily with steel pipe; never in a DWV system.
Union Nut:
Joins two sections of pipe using a fitting.

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V

Valve:
A device that regulates water flow.
Valve Dressing:
Resurfacing a worn valve seat with a special tool. Stops leaks by providing a smooth sealing surface. Applies only to older compression style faucets.
Vent:
A pipe that allows air into a drain system to balance the air pressure, preventing water in the traps from being siphoned off.
Vessel:
A style of basin that installs partially into the counter rather than fully into the counter. The portion of the fixture rising above the counter has a finished exterior.
Vitreous:
Found on some plumbing fixtures, consisting of glass.
Viscosity:
The resistance of fluids to flow, due to internal forces and friction between molecules, which increases as its temperature decreases ting of glass. Used as a surface material.

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W

Waste & Overflow:
Drain assembly for a bathtub. The outlet at the top removes the overflow water during tub filling and the drain at the bottom removes wastewater when the tub is drained.
Water hammer:
Mechanical stress on membrane element in pressure vessel that occurs when feed flow and pressure are increased too sharply. May cause telescoping and cracking of element outer wrap.
Water pressure:
The rate, measured in terms of pounds per square inch (psi), with which water flows into a house. Normal pressure is between 50 psi and 60 psi, and should not drop below 30 psi or rise higher than 80 psi.
Water softening:
To exchange sodium for the hardness in water by ion exchange.
Widespread:
Usually 8" from center of handle-to-handle, this style of bathroom lavatory faucet has separate spout and handles.
Whirlpool Tub:
A whirlpool bathtub system. The system re-circulates the tub water and mixes in air to create hydro therapy with jet inlets.

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X

No terms at this time for X - let us know if there is a term missing from this page!

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Y

Yoke:
Usually a brass casting that holds both the hot and cold valves and the mixing chamber for the water. May also refer to an assembly of copper or other metal which serves the same function.

Z

Zeolite:
A mineral composed of hydrated silicates of aluminum, and sodium or calcium. The term is commonly used in connection with water softening by ion exchange (i.e., zeolite softener, hot lime zeolite, etc.).

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