Plumbing Jargon: A list of industry-specific words explained

Whether you’re looking to take out water supply pipe cover, or want to fix a blocked drain, you’ll probably need to know a little jargon. Plumbing terms can seem more complicated than they actually are so here are a few of them explained:


Every wondered how your toilet actually works? Well, the ballcock helps the cistern tank to fill up properly and stops the water from overflowing. It’s a clever little device that’s found in flush toilets and other water tanks and is easily replaced if erosion occurs – so find out more here.


As well as a ballcock, most toilets also contain a float. This helps to maintain a desired water level in a water tank and can also be found in the cistern. If this is damaged or broken, the water might run over the top, so it’s important to buy a new one if necessary.

Check valve

More often than not, water is supposed to flow in one direction and one direction only for a device to work. A check valve – also known as a non-return valve – allows liquid to flow the right way and stops it from returning back into the water main.


Is your central heating system making a host of banging sounds? If so, there might be an airlock in the system. This is a small pocket of air which can restrict the flow of liquid through a pipe. If you think an airlock is present, contact a plumber for help and advice.

Air separator

An air separator is a small device that’s fitted to a central heating system. It eliminates small bubbles of air circulating in the system and prevents airlocks from occurring. It should also make your central heating system a lot quieter and will stop your pipes from eroding quickly.


A gauge is normally used to measure the temperature or pressure of a device. It can be mechanical, electrical or a combination of both and ensures equipment is working safely. A boiler, for instance, must not exceed pressure levels as this could be extremely dangerous.

A little knowledge can go a long way, so don’t be afraid to look up words if you’re not sure.

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