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The Different Types of Plumbing Drains and Their Uses

Plumbing drains are essential components of any residential or commercial building, ensuring that water and waste flow away from the property safely and efficiently. With so many different types of plumbing drains available, it’s important to understand their specific uses and the materials from which they’re made. In this article, we’ll explore the various types of plumbing drains, their materials, configurations, and proper maintenance techniques.

Residential Drains

Residential drains are designed for use in homes and are responsible for removing wastewater from fixtures such as sinks, showers, and toilets.

Floor Drains

Floor drains are typically installed in areas where water might accumulate, such as basements, garages, and laundry rooms. These drains help prevent flooding by directing excess water into the drainage system.

Shower Drains

Shower drains, as the name suggests, are used in showers to remove water during use. They come in various designs and can include a strainer to catch hair and debris, preventing clogs in the drainage system.

Lavatory Drains

Lavatory drains are used in sinks, both in the bathroom and kitchen. These drains help remove wastewater and are often equipped with a pop-up stopper for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Commercial Drains

Commercial drains are designed for use in commercial buildings, such as restaurants, hotels, and offices.

Grease Traps

Grease traps are installed in commercial kitchens to prevent fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from entering the sewer system. They work by separating FOG from wastewater, ensuring that the drainage system remains free from clogs and blockages.

Sanitary Drains

Sanitary drains are used in commercial restrooms to remove wastewater from toilets, urinals, and sinks. These drains must be able to handle high volumes of waste, especially in heavily trafficked areas.

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Types of Plumbing Drains: Materials

Different materials are used for drains, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is a durable material that has been used for plumbing drains for centuries. It’s strong, resistant to corrosion, and provides excellent noise insulation. However, it’s heavy and can be more difficult to work with than other materials.


PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a popular choice for residential and commercial drains due to its affordability, lightweight, and ease of installation. PVC drains are resistant to corrosion but may not be suitable for high-temperature applications.


ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is another plastic material commonly used for plumbing drains. It shares many of the same advantages as PVC, such as being lightweight and easy to install. ABS is also known for its durability and resistance to impact, making it an excellent choice for both residential and commercial applications.


Copper drains are not as common as other materials but are sometimes used for their corrosion resistance and aesthetic appeal. Copper drains can be more expensive and may require professional installation due to the specialized skills needed to work with copper piping.

Drain Configurations

Drain configurations are designed to prevent sewer gases from entering a building and to maintain a water seal that keeps unpleasant odors at bay.


P-traps are the most common type of drain configuration found in residential and commercial buildings. They’re named for their distinctive P-shape, which creates a water seal that blocks sewer gases from entering the building. P-traps are commonly used for sinks, showers, and bathtubs.


S-traps are similar to P-traps but have an S-shaped design. They’re typically used in older buildings or in situations where a vertical drainpipe is necessary. S-traps are not as common today, as they can be prone to siphoning, which can break the water seal and allow sewer gases to enter the building.

Drum Traps

Drum traps are an older type of drain configuration that is no longer commonly used in new construction. They work by using a large, cylindrical chamber to hold water, creating a seal that prevents sewer gases from entering the building. Drum traps can be challenging to clean and maintain, which is why they’ve largely been replaced by P-traps and S-traps.

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Drain Maintenance

Proper maintenance is crucial for ensuring that your plumbing drains remain functional and efficient. This includes regularly cleaning drain strainers to remove debris, using a plunger or drain snake to clear clogs, and avoiding the use of harsh chemical drain cleaners that can damage pipes. Regularly inspecting your drains for signs of leaks, corrosion, or other damage can also help prevent costly repairs down the line.


Understanding the different types of plumbing drains, their materials, and configurations is essential for both homeowners and business owners. Proper maintenance and attention to detail can ensure that your drains remain efficient and prevent issues like clogs, leaks, and unpleasant odors. By staying informed and proactive, you can keep your plumbing system running smoothly for years to come.


  1. What is the difference between residential and commercial drains?

Residential drains are designed for use in homes, while commercial drains are intended for use in commercial buildings like restaurants, hotels, and offices. Commercial drains are often designed to handle higher volumes of waste and may have specialized features, such as grease traps.

  1. Which drain material is best for my home?

PVC and ABS are popular choices for residential drains due to their affordability, lightweight nature, and ease of installation. Both materials are corrosion-resistant and suitable for most home applications.

  1. Can I use copper drains in my home?

Yes, copper drains can be used in residential applications. They offer excellent corrosion resistance and a unique aesthetic. However, copper drains tend to be more expensive and may require professional installation.

  1. How often should I clean my drains?

Regularly cleaning your drains can help prevent clogs and keep your plumbing system running smoothly. Clean drain strainers weekly to remove debris and consider using a plunger or drain snake to clear minor clogs as needed.

  1. Why is it essential to maintain a water seal in my plumbing drains?

A water seal helps prevent sewer gases from entering your home or building, keeping unpleasant odors at bay. Drain configurations like P-traps and S-traps create this water seal, ensuring a safe and odor-free environment. Regular maintenance and inspection of your drains are crucial for maintaining this seal and keeping your plumbing system functioning efficiently.

Contact us!

If you need professional help with your plumbing drains, whether it’s installation, maintenance, or repairs, consider reaching out to Jilly Plumbing. Our team of experienced and reliable plumbers is here to help you with all your plumbing needs. Call Jilly Plumbing today or visit our website to schedule an appointment or request a quote. Let us handle your plumbing issues and ensure your drains are in top-notch condition.

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