If you are familiar with a few handy plumbing tools, you can easily do quick fixes around the house without relying on a plumber for every leaky pipe.
Most homeowners need not concern themselves with special tools or advanced repairs, the ones listed below are useful for handling the most common plumbing problem which is clogged drains.
The only plumbing tool that you must have in your emergency plumbing kit is the plunger. The plunger works by forcing water into the pipes which unclogs it by applying pressure which flushes the blockage down.
Plungers can serve as a multipurpose tool. In addition to unclogging toilets, it can be used to clear drains, sinks, garbage disposals, bathroom floor drains as well as showers.
As it is the first-line defense against minor blocks, it is worth spending money on a good-quality plunger that you can rely on for years to come. However for stubborn blockages, electric drain augers offer more power to break up clogs than any plunger, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Here are the different kinds of plungers used for plumbing jobs.
The regular plunger that all of us are familiar with is the cup plunger. The dome-shaped cup plunger with a wooden handle is used to dislodge clogs from everything starting from sinks to showers. However, refrain from using the cup plunger for the toilet as that requires a specific type of plunger (flange plunger). Even though some flange plungers can be used as cup plungers, avoid the practice as there is a risk of cross-contamination.
Specially designed to unclog toilets, the extended rubber flap below the dome of the head of the flange plunger tightly seals the bottom of the toilet bowl. In a similar fashion to regular plungers, this design creates hydraulic pressure to clear the blockage.
A pair of pliers can save you from a leaky situation. Pliers especially ones with serrated jaws help you get a firm grip on small objects like nuts and screws. A tongue and groove plier is perfect for clamping any leaky pipes until the plumbers arrive.
Moreover, their use isn’t just limited to your plumbing toolkit. The multipurpose tool is also an essential component of various DIY projects.
Another type of plier used is the slip-joint or Channel-type plier. The angled jaws along with the extended adjustment section give a firm grip for any pipe or plumbing parts irrespective of the size. Its long handle also provides plenty of leverage to allow for twisting and squeezing. This makes this versatile tool a must-have in your specialized plumbing tool collection.
The basin wrench also called the sink wrench has a long handle to reach pipes in hard-to-reach or precarious places. The grip of the head can be easily turned to reach a leak for a temporary solution until the plumber arrives. This makes it a vital part of your home-emergency plumbing kit.
Most commonly known as the plumbing snake, the auger is used to unclog the stubborn blockages when the plunger fails. Augers work by removing debris from the clogged drains without affecting the surroundings. As mentioned earlier, electric drain augers offer more power to break up clogs than regular ones.
Augers are available for both the sink and the toilet, each shaped differently depending on the site of use.
Kitchen sinks are prone to clogs. The sink auger/drum auger/canister auger can be used to clear it. It has a flexible stainless steel tip fitted into a corkscrew end. In order to use it, turn the handle on the drum canister after inserting the cable. This allows the cable to pass through the bends in the drain pipe then lock into the clog and pull them out effectively.
The toilet auger/closet auger is usually larger than the ones for sinks and also designed differently. The large metal rod is able to reach the bottom of the bowl into the hole. Then you push and maneuver the cable as necessary to dislodge the clog. There is a rubber sleeve on the bend so you don’t need to worry about your porcelain getting scratched.
A comprehensive and effective part of a home plumbing emergency kit is a basin wrench or a sink wrench. With its long handle, you can easily reach inaccessible pipes and other awkward places.
Even if you can’t reach the leak or burst, the wrench head has a firm enough grip to get the damage under control. At least until the expert arrives.
The handy plumber’s tape is a fix for leaky pipes. The thin white tape is made of Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and is used to help bind pipes and fittings that have worn down before twisting the parts together.
The silky tape has lubricant properties that seal joints as well as help in threading. It is used to reinforce the water line connections for showers, tubs, and sinks.
Though standard duct tape is a temporary fix, nothing is as effective as the sturdy, waterproof plumber’s tape.
Sometimes the solution to a problem is cutting right through it. This is where the hacksaw comes into the picture. From dealing with stubborn nuts and bolts to cutting plastic and metal pipes, the hacksaw is just the tool to save the day.
The blades are prone to breakage and can become dull over time. This is why an extra set of blades should always be in stock. Additionally, for easy and smooth cuts ensure that the blade is tense when sawing.
A tubing cutter, as the name suggests is used to cut tubes. This essential plumbing tool is used to cut copper pipes. You may think a hacksaw is enough to cut pipes but the precise, square cuts with half the effort can only be achieved by tubing cutters.
It has two wheels, the pressure wheel is used to apply pressure as the knob turns whereas the cutting wheel is used to cut metal. In order to use the tool, clamp it on the pipe and rotate it. Then tighten the knob every two or three turns as the cutting wheel gradually cuts through the metal.
Finally, use the deburring tool on the body of the tubing cutter to remove the burr on the inside of the pipe.
Following your stint with the hacksaw cutter, your hardware and pipe edges are undoubtedly quite rough. This will not only interfere with fittings but you also run the risk of accidental injury.
A metal file can help you prevent that by smoothing out the rough edges. There are many styles and sizes available but two common ones are enough for beginners.
The first one is the tapered, round, rat-tail file while the other is a half-round file with flat and rounded surfaces. These are sufficient for most household jobs. Once you have mastered these, you can easily work with other drugs as needed.
Most bathtubs, sinks, showers, and toilets have caulkings in or around them. This is to create a watertight seal that can eventually break down over time and lead to water damage to fittings as well as your household.
Also known as the caulking gun, this cartridge gun is to refill the gaps in the caulking or replace them altogether.
Remember to wipe the seal with a dry rag for a smooth finish.
This simple plumbing tool is used to remove valve seats on a compression faucet which is the oldest design of faucets. They work by compressing the rubber tube against the valve seat in the body of the faucet.
The valve seat becomes rough and damaged as a result of the wear and tear of the washer. As this disrupts the seal, it needs to be replaced with a valve-seat wrench. If replacing the valve seat isn’t feasible, a reseating tool can be used to grind the rough surface to make it smooth again.
Old traditional equipment like sinks, radiators, and so on are prone to become leaky with age. This is where faucet packing, rubber washers, and O-rings come in to save the day.
Packing functions by creating a water-tight seal means wrapping its graphite or wax-coated string around the valve stems. This is followed by packing the string under the packing nuts.
Rubber washers and O- rings are available in a variety of sizes which makes them convenient to replace any parts of an old faucet that you can’t find in stores. Having a few packs around can save you both costs and money searching stores for a new part.
A fully equipped and effective plumbing kit can save you from calling the plumber. The tools listed are a few basic ones as a beginner’s guide to plumbing. Once you get the hang of using these, you can move on to bigger projects and be more confident in handling more complex plumbing tools.
However, once the situation is beyond your control, it’s best to call in the experts who can deal with it best.