What are the Different Types of Plumbing Fittings?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2019
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Plumbing fittings come in all shapes and sizes, with each individual type being used for a specific purpose. Joints or elbows are commonly used, as well as tee and cross fittings. Most plumbing fittings are used to change the direction of the water's flow or to stop it altogether.

Elbow joints are plumbing fittings that are used to change the direction of the water's flow to either a 45° or 90° angle. They are commonly used under sinks and other fixtures in which a drain is used to better regulate the speed at which the water exits the fixture and enters the septic or sewer system. Elbow ends may be socketed, butt welded, or threaded. A street elbow is a variation of this type of fitting, generally using male to female threads.

The tee joint is another type of plumbing fitting, used primarily to combine or divide a flow of water. Both ends are generally the same size, although there are varieties available that have differing inlet and outlet sizes, also known as a reducer joint. Tee joints can also be used in certain computer components.

Cross joints are also plumbing fittings. They have three inlet valves and one outlet valve or vice versa, and are commonly used for sprinkler systems. Often, they are not used when adding plumbing to a home because they are more expensive than using multiple tee joints.


Plumbing fittings are not always joints. This is the case with caps and plugs, both of which are used for closing off the end of a pipe. The difference between the two is in the way each fitting is designed. Caps fit over the ends of a pipe, generally being threaded so they screw in. Plugs fit into the end of a pipe. Both are generally gas and water tight.

Clean-outs are also plumbing fittings that are used on a temporary basis. They are installed in an easily accessible area to allow an auger or pipe snake to be inserted to clean out clogged areas of piping. After the pipes are cleaned, the clean-outs are typically removed.

Most plumbing fittings are made from various types of plastic or metal, most commonly polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Copper and other metal fittings may also be available for older homes which may have copper drains. Fittings are generally sold in home improvement and plumbing supply centers, and are installed using specialized plumbing glues and adhesives.


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Post 4

@ Istria- My advice is to go for it. If you are mechanically inclined, this will be one of the easier plumbing jobs to perform. No torch or putty needed here. As always, have your tools laid out before your begin, and be careful with your plumbing and pipe fittings. The leaks always occur at the joints and the parts are not moving. The key in these areas is "snug" not "tight".

I have done this job myself, in both the bathroom and kitchen (for the same reasons as you) and I was in and out in about a half hour. If you are really unsure, go to your library and get a DIY plumber's manual and judge the pictures to see if you can handle the job.

Post 3

@ Istria- I preach caution on this job. I am not sure what types of pipes you have, but I tried to do this job and ended up over tightening the hex nuts on the valve, which lead to stripped threads and a leak that I had to call the plumber in to fix. This leak ended up costing me about $400 when the original job would have cost about half that. It also made me feel like an idiot for trying to be cheap. I never stopped to think that the brass plumbing fittings were much harder than the soft copper pipes, leading to an expensive fix.

Post 2

I live in Arizona, and my water has a very high mineral content. I am trying to change out my kitchen faucet, and I found that the water would not shut off. I need to change out the angle joints for both the hot and cold water. It seems like they are seized with mineral deposits from the hard water. I have already tried loosening the packing nuts to get the handles to turn. One shuts off part way, but the other doesn't shut off at all, it just keeps spinning and spinning. Is this a hard job or is it something that I should call a plumber to fix? The parts are cheap, and I am mechanically inclined, but I have never done this job before. Does anyone have any advice?

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