What You Need

If you work around your house, you probably already have many of the tools needed for plumbing work. Among the general-purpose tools you will need are hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, pliers, a hacksaw, soldering tools, and various wrenches. You can buy specialized tools as required, or merely rent them for a particular job.

 

 

 

Material taken from
Readers Digest "New Complete do-it-yourself manual"

Wrenches

In addition to the wrenches you probably have in your tool kit, several specialized wrenches may be needed for plumbing. Chief among them is the pipe wrench, an adjustable wrench with serrated jaws. You will need two of them—one for holding a pipe or fitting and the other for turning the connecting piece. If you grip a polished surface, such as chrome pipe, with a pipe wrench, tape the tool's jaws or wrap corrugated cardboard or rags around the surface. This prevents damage from the wrench's teeth. Don't use a pipe wrench on thin pipe; it might crush it.

Spud wrenches are used for turning large flat-sided nuts, such as the locknuts on a sink drain. Get an adjustable one. Socket wrenches, which fit over nuts or valves, may be needed to turn the valves of faucet stems. Instead of jaws, chain wrenches and strap wrenches have lengths of chain or fabric that loop around a pipe to hold it. Use them on large-diameter pipes and hard-to-reach connections. (A strap wrench won't damage a polished finish.) A basin wrench is a long-handled tool with an adjustable jaw at a right angle to the handle. You'll need it for hard-to-reach connections beneath a sink.
If you are fixing a leaky faucet, you may need an Allen wrench of the appropriate size to insert into the opening of the faucet's valve seat to loosen and remove it. If the valve seat cannot be removed, get a valve-seat dresser, or grinder, for smoothing rough spots on the valve seat.

Cutting and flaring tools

You can cut most small pipe with a hacksaw; the blade should have 24 or 32 teeth per inch. Special pipe cutters are available for copper, steel, or plastic pipe. You will need a reamer for removing burrs from the freshly cut pipe—either a hand-held tool or a bit for your drill. If you are working with brass or steel pipe, you may require a set of dies and a diestock—a wrench for holding dies—to cut threads.

Flaring tools are used to widen the ends of flexible metal or plastic pipe before joining with a flare fitting. You can get individual flaring tools (one for each size pipe) or a more sophisticated mechanical tool that will flare all sizes.

Drain-clearing tools

A plunger is essential for clearing clogs. Get one with a funnel-type cup. The flexible tube extension, necessary for plunging a toilet, can be folded inward to fit over a drain.

If the plunger fails to clear a clog, you'll need an auger. A trap-and-drain auger, or snake, is a long flexible tube with a spiral hook at one end and a locking handle at the other. Power-driven snakes are available for clearing main drains. The shorter closet auger, used for toilets, has a crank handle.

Putty, tape, and packing

In addition to tools, you will need pipe joint compound, a paste applied to pipe threads to prevent leaks and make disassembly easier. Sometimes pipe tape is wrapped around the threads in place of the compound. Plumber's putty seals joints between sinks or tubs and their drains or faucets. You may also need a supply of string like packing, called wicking, to repair faucets.

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