Having the right plumbing tools can make home repairs much easier, and in some cases, a project will be virtually impossible to complete with out the appropriate tools. If you are a DIYer who wants to do your own plumbing work, here are eight tools you should have in your collection.
At one time, plumbers were known for carrying a whole collection of pipe wrenches in different sizes to match just about every job. And while the pipe wrench is still used for steel and iron pipe, it has mostly been replaced by tongue-and-groove pliers, also known as channel-type, slip-joint, or Channellock pliers (a brand name that has become a generic term). Whatever you call it, this tool has angled jaws, long handles, and a range of adjustment positions. The standard 10-inch size is suitable for most plumbing work, but it can be handy to have a couple of larger and smaller pliers for special situations.
Also sometimes called a sink wrench, a basin wrench can be very handy when changing out an old faucet in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry sink. It is a self-tightening wrench with a pivoting head and long handle, designed for loosening or tightening fittings in hard-to-reach places.
Compression Sleeve Puller
If you have copper, PEX, or CPVC tubing in your house, you most likely have fixture shutoff valves or other fittings that use compression fittings. Although it is usually easy to unscrew the valve itself by holding the valve with pliers or a wrench and unscrewing the nut with another pair of pliers or a wrench, often the compression sleeve remains stuck on the pipe, making it quite hard to remove the ring and compression nut. This is where the compression sleeve puller comes in handy to pull off the nut and compression sleeve without damaging the pipe.
Pipe wrenches, although less common now, are still necessary plumbing tools when it comes to working with large threaded iron or galvanized steel pipes. Many fittings, like the water heater nipples, yard hydrants, or pressure regulators, require the use of a pipe wrench or two to unscrew them. A pipe wrench can also be essential when removing large drain clean-out fittings, such as the main sewer clean-out. In some instances, it's helpful to have two pipe wrenches to prevent stress on the fitting—one wrench holds the pipe or fitting steady, and another wrench to turn the adjoining piece.
An adjustable wrench, often known by the popular brand name Crescent wrench, is used when removing fixture shutoff valves, compression nuts, and supply tubes on faucets and other fixtures. Its smooth jaws will not damage chromes surfaces. A top-quality adjustable wrench will last a lifetime and will perform much better than a cheap version. Most DIYers will find it useful to own at least two adjustable wrenches.
Most plumbing pipes can be cut with a hacksaw, but the work is much easier with a tubing cutting designed for the type of pipes you are working with. There are tubing cutters for copper, for PVC plastic, or for PEX tubing.
From time to time, every DIYer will find the need to clear a clog from a drain. A standard drain auger, also called a drain snake, is a must-have tool for the home plumber. The tool features a long coiled-metal cable that feeds from an angled handle or circular drum that is rotated to force the cable through drain clogs to break up and extract them.
A drain plunger is the first tool to reach for if you have a routine clog blocking a drain trap in a sink, tub, or shower. There are two types of plunger: a cup plunger which has a rubber cup that fits over the drain opening, and flange plunger (also known as a toilet plunger) designed with an extended inner flange that fits down into the drain opening of a toilet. Some plungers can serve both functions, with an inner flange that tucks up inside the cup when it's not needed.
Other Handy Tools
Some plumbing tools are standard hand tools that you may already have around the house. Others are specialty tools that are required only in certain circumstances—such as if you are soldering copper pipes.
- Screwdrivers: It's a good idea to have a good collection of several screwdrivers in various shapes and sizes, because there are many different types of screws to remove when doing plumbing repairs.
- Allen wrench set: The handles on many faucet and shower valves are held on with Allen screws or recessed hex screws or bolts. If you have a recessed hex screw, a six-sided Allen wrench is the only tool for the job. Allen wrench sets come in either metric or standard sizes; it's best to have a set of each. Choose wrench sets with loosely hanging or removable keys rather than keys that fold into a handle; loose Allen keys are easier to get into tight places.
- Hacksaw: Plumbing fittings do not always come apart easily, and a good hacksaw will be useful when it comes to cutting any type of pipe, stubborn bolts, nuts, or screws. You can also buy a compact hacksaw, which is essentially a handle for holding one end of a standard hacksaw blade. These are great for tight spaces, but the usable blade length is quite short so they aren't efficient for regular cutting tasks.
- Propane torch: If you have sweat-soldered copper pipes in your house, a propane torch and the related supplies (lead-free solder, brush-on flux) will be needed if you plan to make repairs, alterations, or extensions to the system. The torch serves to melt the solder when joining copper pipes and fittings. If you are not comfortable working with an open flame, there are also other ways of joining copper pipes, such as compression fittings or grip fittings.
- Closet (toilet) auger: This is a specialized form of drain snake with a long handle and a protective elbow that prevents the metal cable from damaging the porcelain in the bottom of your toilet.