Since leaving college, Paul has worked in a variety of roles, including: painter and decorator, general handyman, and freelance writer.
There are many plumbing problems that occur around the home that are relatively easy to fix, provided you have the right tools. Doing the work yourself can save you a lot of money. I've put together a list of the ten tools that I have found most useful over the years for fixing common plumbing problems. It's also wise to have them on hand in case there is an emergency.
Please note that fixing plumbing problems yourself does depend upon the nature of the issue. Some problems require advanced skills and experience, or specialist tools and machinery. You should also bear in mind that you can make a problem worse, or risk personal injury, if you don't know what you are doing. If in doubt, my advice is to call a plumber.
Top 10 Must-Have Plumbing Tools for Homeowners
- Adjustable Wrench
- Pipe Wrench
- Basin Wrench
- Plumber's Snake/ Hand Auger
- Closet Auger
- Tongue-and-Groove Pliers
- Tubing Cutter
- Plumber's Tape
A plunger can be used to deal with blockages of all types of drains, as well as to unclog toilets. It's important to note that there are two types of plunger, each with their own intended purpose, and most homeowners will require at least one of each type:
- Cup Plunger (Sink and Tub Plunger) - These plungers are very common. They have a rubber cup-like shape at one end, which is attached to a long wooden handle. They are often effective at clearing clogs in sinks, tubs, and showers, but are not designed for unblocking toilets.
- Flange Plunger (Toilet Plunger) - These plungers are designed for clearing clogs in toilets. They are similar in design to a regular plunger but have a flange, essentially an extended rubber flap below the cup of the plunger head, that aids with achieving an effective seal when plunging the toilet bowl.
2. Adjustable Wrench
An adjustable wrench is a versatile, must-have tool. It can be used to tighten and loosen hexagonal nuts and fittings on pipes. I would recommend that homeowners buy several different sizes of adjustable wrench, the 6 and 10 inch versions being perhaps the most useful for plumbing purposes.
Can you recommend a good adjustable wrench?
If you just want something versatile and reliable, and you don't want to spend too much money, I would suggest the Irwin Vise-Grip 8-inch. I have a full set of these and they are excellent all purpose wrenches. This Irwin tool feel great in your hand and does the job well.
3. Pipe Wrench
A pipe wrench is used to tighten and loosen threaded pipes, fittings and nuts, as well as for gripping and holding. These are generally the largest wrenches found in a plumber's toolbox and are often used two at a time, one to grip a pipe and the other to turn the nut or fitting. They come in various sizes. If you do a lot of work with pipes, you should consider getting a full set of them.
4. Basin Wrench
A basin wrench is a unique, T-shaped tool with a very specific purpose. It's used for tightening and loosening nuts that hold sink faucets in place. There really isn't anything else that can do the same job, as this tool is designed for use in spaces which are typically too cramped and too far away for your hand and regular wrenches to work effectively.
5. Plumber's Snake/ Hand Auger
A plumber's Snake, also known as a hand auger is used to clear clogs in showers, tubs, and sink drains. If plunging doesn't work, this is generally the tool that you reach for next. It's basically a hand-cranked 25-foot long flexible steel cable that tackles obstructions in pipes. Hand augers are mainly used for sinks and tubs, if you are trying to clear a toilet, you will should use another type of auger that's designed specifically for toilets - see below.
6. Closet Auger
A closet auger, also known as a water closet auger, or toilet auger is a form of plumber's snake that's designed specifically for tackling toilets. It has a long metal rod with a bend for reaching into the hole at the base of the toilet bowl. A rubber sleeve around the auger prevents the porcelain in the toilet from being damaged. As with the drain snake, the toilet auger is pushed into or through the clog and rotated to clear the obstruction.
A hacksaw is a versatile saw that can cut through metal or plastic pipes, nuts and bolts, screws, and hardware. You will definitely need one of these at some point. You will also need some spare blades, as they are easy to break when carrying out plumbing work, given how infirm some of the fixtures and pipes can be.
8. Tongue-and-Groove Pliers
Tongue-and-groove pliers are a great tool for pulling, grabbing, holding, twisting, tightening and loosening things. These pliers have a lot of versatility, thanks to serrated jaws typically 45 to 60 degrees from the handles, with a lower jaw that can be adjusted by sliding along a tracking section under the upper jaw. Essentially you can alter the size setting without having to widen the handle and making the tool awkward to hold.
Can you recommend some tongue-and-groove pliers?
These Craftsman 8 and 10 inch pliers are a great buy and, in my opinion, will fulfill the plumbing work needs of the average homeowner. I've been using them for years, they are sturdy and comfortable to use.
9. Tubing Cutter
A tubing cutter has a similar appearance to a C-clamp, and it provides a fast, clean, and easy way to cut a copper pipe. Ideally, you will want to have both a standard-size tubing cutter, plus a close-quarter mini-cutter for working in cramped spaces. The great thing about this tool is that it's easy to use and gives you a smooth cut, making it easier to get a good seal when you connect the pipe into a fitting.
10. Plumber's Tape
Plumber's tape, also called Teflon tape, is a must-have product for achieving tight seals when dealing with threaded plumbing connections. It's made from a substance called PTFE (PolyTetraFluoroEthylene) and can mold to the threads of pipes and other fixtures, helping to stop water leaks, as well as providing some lubrication when threading fixtures together.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Paul Goodman
Abby Slutsky from LAFAYETTE HL on July 23, 2020:
This was very informative. As someone not great with tools, I would have loved a few more pics, but your descriptions were good.