Homeownership comes with great responsibility. The complex technical systems that keep a home running are often best left to the professionals, but that’s not to say that you’re unaccountable in your own home. We’ve taken our combined 120 years of plumbing experience and have applied it to educating Denver homeowners about general plumbing principles, as well as common concerns that are specific to Denver residents.
We’ve learned that while emergencies are sometimes unavoidable, most issues can be stopped with a basic understanding of plumbing terminology and its application. Below are ten terms to get you started:
This term refers to the act of removing any water or air that resides in a plumbing system. The Denver climate in the winter months requires us to bleed outdoor pipes to prevent them from freezing and rupturing.
British Thermal Units (BTUs)
A British Thermal Unit measures the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 lb. of water by 1 degree. Denver’s high altitude means that homeowners who have natural gas or propane water heaters will need to be conscious of BTU output relative to their air content.
Closet flange refers to a flat collar or rim that is mounted over a toilet drain to enable installation. It serves as the base unto which the toilet is mounted. See: Wax Ring
When two pipes are joined together in a plumbing project, grooves are cut into the pipe ends, allowing the two joints to screw together. These grooves, known as pipe threads, are often used in conjunction with Teflon tape.
A p-trap is a u-shaped piece of pipe that is fitted between the wall and a sink or toilet. It holds water to prevent sewer gas from flowing back into the home. Denver residents who own ski homes in the Rockies may have dry p-traps from seasonal use. If someone in your home smells sewer gas, simply refill the trap by running the sink or flushing the toilet.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
This material is a plastic piping that is used in low-pressure plumbing systems. PVC is most often associated with drainage, waste or vent systems, and it is also commonly found under sinks.
A sump is a basin in a home’s basement designed to hold ground water that permeates its foundation after heavy rain, or in Denver’s case, melting snow. This basin is typically associated with the term, sump pump, or a pump used to empty the sump basin somewhere outside the home.
Teflon Tape (Plumbers Tape)
Teflon tape is a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) film that is wrapped on pipe threads in a joint (where two pipes meet) to create a tight seal. Despite its name, this material is non-adhesive.
Water Heater Pressure Relief Valve
This is a valve that opens when a water heater comes under intense pressure (typically 150 psi). It’s triggered when there is extra pressure in water lines, a faulty thermostat, blocked plumbing, or other unforeseen issues. When this occurs, pressure is released in the form of water. If you see your relief valve leaking it’s best to call a plumber, as this is often the first sign of one of the aforementioned issues.
This term refers to the seal of wax between a toilet and closet flange to prevent a leak. Replacing the wax ring can often stop an otherwise functional toilet from leaking.
Simple monitoring of the plumbing system in your home can help you address issues before they become disasters. Of course, if you do have a problem, we hope this list of terms will come in handy for you. We encourage you to contact us with any questions, and if you’re ever in need of an after-hours house call, our emergency line is always open.