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Kitchen Sink Anatomy: How Kitchen Sink Plumbing Works

February 16, 2022

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For some, understanding kitchen sink anatomy is like understanding what goes on underneath the hood of your car - as long as it works, you don’t need to know! But what happens when water starts gushing out from behind the kitchen sink cupboard and you’re at a loss as to what to do next? 

Knowing how kitchen sink plumbing works when problems arise will help determine if you need to call in a plumber or if it’s a job you can tackle yourself. What’s great about kitchen sink anatomy is that it involves many of the core principles of plumbing, with many well-designed parts that facilitate waste and water leaving your property with minimal fuss. 

This blog unpacks some of the parts that make up the kitchen sink anatomy and delves into some useful tips that may save you time and money further down the line. 

How Kitchen Sink Plumbing Works

Upon closer inspection, hiding behind your kitchen sink cupboard doors is an assortment of pipes and plumbing parts that all work together to support daily functions. It may seem quite overwhelming at first, which is why we’ll go into the nitty-gritty details of the inner workings behind your kitchen cabinets. 

Firstly, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a hot and cold water tap, and post-cleaning there is grey (waste) water that needs to be disposed of efficiently. Further, if food particles build up, they’ll inevitably cause a clog in the kitchen sink anatomy. From the outlets to the pipes, there’s a delicate kitchen sink anatomy that keeps your kitchen space working efficiently. Sometimes, homeowners may require a faucet repair without even knowing it. Read on to learn more about your sink and how it works. Then, next time you're experiencing issues, you can get to the root of the problem.

The Faucet and Aerator 

Let’s start with the first thing we often notice in kitchen sinks — the faucet. Depending on your countertop space or aesthetic preferences, this fixture can either be attached to the sink itself or the wall. 

But to enjoy a better water flow or water pressure, you can consider screwing an aerator onto your faucet. This tiny tool creates a mixture of water and air to make the stream smoother and softer to the touch, as well as to lessen water splashing in the basin. It also improves your faucet’s physical operation so you can cut down on the amount of water you use every day.   

The Strainer 

Chances are that you have a drop-in kitchen sink, meaning that you’ll have a rubber gasket connecting the PVC pipe to your sink’s drain. This may well have a strainer attached to it, which is your first line of defense against too much food waste making its way down the drain. 

The Trap

The trap is ingenious in its simplicity when it comes to kitchen sink plumbing. The trap serves the function of preventing the unwanted flow of liquid or gas from entering the house. Also known as an “S trap” or a “U-bend”, depending on its shape, it’s effectively a pipe segment that doubles back on itself to create a water and air seal, preventing the release of noxious gases back up into your kitchen via the drain. It’s worth noting that in some parts of the U.S., “Straps” are no longer accepted by building codes as they siphon dry.  

A kitchen sink anatomy diagram of the drain plumbing will reveal the workings of ‘the trap’ and how gravity and plumbing work together to keep nasty smells away. The trap is also easy to remove. So, if you happen to drop a tiny item into the sink and are panicking that you’ve lost it for good, this is where you should first look. All heavy objects, from jewelry to food cuttings wind up here, as well as nasty debris like hair and sand. 

Ideally, you should clean your trap fairly regularly to remove build-up. There should be a clean-out area at the bottom of the trap where you can access the pipe. Place a bucket or bowl underneath this area before attempting any DIY or item retrieval on your own!

The Pipes 

What pipes are needed for a kitchen sink? Well, that depends on your needs. When considering your average kitchen, you’ll want a sink with pipes allowing for hot and cold water. A double sink where you can rinse your soapy dishes in cold water is ideal, but not necessary. Whatever you have going on in your kitchen – be it a dishwasher, a washing machine, or a garbage disposal unit – under kitchen sink plumbing is where it all comes together. 

We suggest labeling your water pipes (red for hot, blue for cold) so that you can easily determine where a leak is coming from and if you need to turn off your water heater if there’s a leak. Use colorful tape that you can pick up from your local hardware store. 

If your pipes have been well installed, there should also be switches on each of them to cut off the water supply and isolate any leaks so that you can address any plumbing work that needs to be done.

Avoid overloading too many pipes on one drainage system as this can cause blockages and build-up. You’ll also want to ensure that your pipes are of significant length from your sink to the drain so that the grey water has space and time to slowly drain away. When asking your plumber, ‘what pipes are needed for a kitchen sink?’, ask about ‘stacking’ as a solution to avoid water build-up.  

Remember that water is pervasive, so it’ll find a way out of your pipes if there’s too much pressure on your under kitchen sink plumbing. When you see soggy chipboard counters underneath a kitchen sink, this is the result of kitchen sink plumbing that isn’t working effectively.

The Garbage Disposal 

Since its invention in the 1920s, the garbage disposal unit has become an invaluable part of your under kitchen sink plumbing. It’s a small grinding appliance usually installed between your sink’s drain and the trap, and it is designed to pulverize all your food waste into smaller pieces so they can pass through your plumbing without clogging your kitchen sink drain. 

While there are powerful units that can shred thick bones or other hard material, it helps to remember that not all food scraps and liquids should be poured into the disposal. You can avoid serious plumbing problems by refraining from putting in fibrous food scraps, grease and oil.

If you do find yourself dealing with a garbage disposal problem, it’s best to have your unit repaired immediately. Then, of course, remember that you also have a part to play: refrain from throwing problematic scraps into your disposal unit and take them to your actual garbage can instead. 

The Shutoff Valve

valves for commercial plumbing in HamiltonThe shutoff valve, also sometimes called the stop valve, is a device you can find beneath your kitchen sink, usually installed at your water lines. The primary purpose of this fixture is to turn off the water supply to the sink faucet (or other appliances in your home like your toilet, dishwasher or water heater) without having to use your main shutoff valve.  

This control becomes a helpful feature, especially in those times when you need to have your kitchen sink’s pipes repaired. The stop valve keeps water from flowing to the faucet, allowing your plumbing experts to resolve a crack or leak in your plumbing system without much hassle. 

Connections For Other Appliances

Modern kitchens may well have more than just a dishwasher connection as part of their kitchen sink anatomy. A kitchen garbage disposal unit that attaches to the underside of your sink offers the convenience of food waste disposal with the flip of a switch. Of course, you need to know how to clean the waste unit and understand how it is related to your drainage system. 

A dishwasher and an ice-making machine are other useful appliances that will most likely come together under your kitchen sink. If you are renovating your kitchen or starting from scratch, a kitchen sink drain plumbing diagram as provided by a reputable plumbing company can help to map out the arterial network of your kitchen sink plumbing so that you can figure out how kitchen sink plumbing works best for you and then plan accordingly if you need pipes to be wall-mounted or cut into the walls of your new kitchen.

This is when understanding the intricacies of your particular kitchen plumbing system comes in handy. It’s always advisable to get professional advice from an experienced plumber. 

Expert Plumbing Services With Alliance Service Pros

Alliance Service Pros is comprised of professionally trained plumbers who analyze each situation and offer practical advice on how to set up and maintain your kitchen sink plumbing with minimal fuss. If you’re experiencing a problem with your kitchen sink plumbing, contact us today and we will gladly assist with a quotation and talk you through your options. 

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