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The average person is mystified by plumbing. (That’s why they call us!) But then we start throwing around plumbing jargon like “escutcheon” and “ballcock,” and then they’re really lost! That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to some of the weirder terms of the trade.

  • Air Lock: This probably evokes images of spaceships, but it’s actually a blockage in your pipes caused by gas trapped in the high point of the liquid. They’re not always a bad thing; air locks are the reason your toilets and sinks don’t smell like a sewer.
  • Ballcock: We all know what this one sounds like. This is the mechanism that fills the tank portion of your toilet. If you look in the tank, you’ll see an arm with a float mechanism on the end. That floaty thing controls the valve, which opens and shuts to control the water in the tank.
  • Blue Goo: This sounds like alien blood, but it can actually be bad for your toilet. It’s a buildup of, you guessed it, blue goo from those toilet cleansers that hang into the bowl. Over time, the goo can clog the water jets, so the toilet won’t flush as well.
  • Cistern: This term isn’t really weird, so much as it isn’t immediately recognizable as something related to plumbing. Cisterns are storage tanks that catch rainwater, especially in drought-prone areas. In the 1950s, architects designed houses with “butterfly” style roofs — that is, the two sides of the roof sloped together to form a V shape — so that rainwater could flow down from the roof and into a cistern.
  • Escutcheon: Sounds like a fancy French dish, but it’s actually the decorative metal piece around the base of a pipe or faucet to cover the hole the hardware comes out of.
  • Flapper: You’ve probably replaced one of these before. These are the movable part of the valve at the bottom of your toilet tank.
  • Flue Baffle: We’ll give you a hint. It isn’t a Harry Potter spell. These devices are used to regulate flow through a pipe.

These are just a few of our favorite crazy plumbing terms. Got more? Let us know in the comments! Make sure to contact us for more info about all your plumbing needs.