Plumbing Tools Explained Simply

Whether you’re a beginner plumber or a seasoned veteran, having the right tools will help you get your jobs done quickly and efficiently. Here are 10 essential plumbing tools every homeowner and plumber should have.

Channel-type pliers (sometimes called slip-joint pliers) have a long handle and self-adjusting jaws that can grip pipes and other hardware of almost any size. They are also useful for removing and tightening faucets and valve lock nuts.

Hex Keys

A hex key set is one of the most important tools that any plumber can have. Also known as Allen wrenches, hex keys have a short handle with a hexagonal socket that matches the shape of hex bolts and screws to provide easy loosening and tightening. Hex keys come in a variety of sizes to fit a range of screw and bolt sizes, making them an essential tool for a wide range of plumbing projects.

Regardless of the specific type of hex key you choose, there are some basic rules that should be followed when working with these handy tools. For example, ensuring that the key is fully inserted into the screw or bolt before applying any force minimizes the risk of slippage and subsequent rounding of the fastener. Additionally, using caution when applying pressure and avoiding the use of extenders or cheaters to increase leverage can help avoid damage to the fastener or the wrench itself.

If you’re looking to purchase a hex key set, make sure to select one made from robust materials like chrome-vanadium or alloy steel. These types of materials safeguard the tools against premature wear and enhance their overall performance and reliability.

In addition to these tips, it’s essential to always be aware of how much torque you are applying when using hex keys. Applying too much force can break the tool or damage the screw or bolt, so it’s important to only apply a steady, controlled amount of pressure. In addition, if the hex key begins to show signs of wearing or the edges become rounded, it’s time to replace it to avoid damaging the fastener. These simple rules can help you to get the most out of your hex key set and keep it in good condition for years to come.

Specialty Tools

The plumbing industry requires a wide array of tools to do the job correctly and efficiently. From removing old or broken nipple extractors to cutting through hard pipe, plumbers need a variety of speciality tools to get the job done.

A nipple extractor is a tool used to remove the old nipples from a pipe fitting without damaging the connectors. This tool is typically made from corrosion-resistant galvanized steel and has a simple design that makes it easy to use.

Other specialty tools that plumbers often use include a drain snake, hand augers, and a borescope (inspection camera). A drain snake is a long, flexible metal wire with a corkscrew tip that can break up and remove clogs in sinks or tubs. A hand auger is a similar tool designed to break up and clear heavy-duty blockages in sewer lines, while a borescope is a much larger motorized version that can see into tight or inaccessible spaces.

Another indispensable specialty tool for plumbers is a pipe cutter. These specialized tools have a sharp cutting wheel on a rotating head that can cut through pipes, tubing, and other metals by digging into the material with increasing pressure. This enables plumbers to cut through tough materials with ease.

Finally, a plumber’s torch is a handheld device used to apply heat to specific areas of piping. This allows plumbers to seal off leaks and connect new piping with a strong and watertight connection. A plumber’s tape, or thread sealing tape, is also an essential plumbing tool that every plumber should have on hand for patching up or securing connections. This specialized tape is available in various widths to accommodate different types of piping threads – and certainly popular amongst Des Moines plumbers.

Adjustable Wrench

Referred to as spanners in the UK, adjustable wrenches are essential tools for any plumber or DIYer. Similar to a crescent wrench, the adjustable spanner features one fixed jaw and one moveable jaw that can be adjusted in size according to the nut or bolt you’re trying to grip. While monkey wrenches and pliers can also grip fasteners, an adjustable spanner is more versatile because it lets you change the size of the jaws while still gripping the nut or bolt.

Adjustable wrenches work best when you’re using them correctly. If you apply too much force, the movable jaw will pivot and become loose. This can damage the bolt head or cause the wrench to slip and lose its grip. To avoid this, you need to be sure that the jaws are positioned at a specified distance from each other and that the handle is being moved up or down.

The movable jaw of an adjustable wrench is usually farther from the handle than the fixed jaw. This allows the tool to clamp on a flat surface without damaging the bolt heads, unlike pipe wrenches, which have serrated jaws that can scratch or mar bolt heads.

While many professionals use adjustable wrenches on a regular basis, they should take special care to follow safety guidelines when handling them. Steel hand tools can create high energy sparks, which poses a serious risk of fire in environments that contain flammable gases, liquids and solids. This is why the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University recommends only using adjustable wrenches made with non-sparking materials. This can help prevent injuries and reduce the risk of accidents in hazardous environments.

Drain Snake

For those stubborn drain clogs that a plunger can’t handle, it might be time to break out plumbing’s secret weapon: the drain snake. Also known as a “top snake” or a drum snake, this tool’s coiled metal cable is typically 25 feet long and features a corkscrew-like tip that snags and removes debris. It’s usually powered by a crank or an electric motor and can be used to unclog showers, toilets, bathtubs, washing machines and sinks.

To use a plumbing snake, first locate the clean out serving your home’s main line or the toilet vent stack inlet and connect your snake to that pipe. Then, carefully feed the end of your snake into the clogged drain opening. Once the clog is snagged, rotate the snake around the pipe, moving it up and down as well as side to side. Once the clog is broken up and dislodged, pull the snake out of the drain.

If you’re unable to clear your drain clog, it might be necessary to call in a professional plumber. Luckily, these tools are relatively inexpensive, so doing so can help save you both time and money down the road.

Before using a drain snake, it’s important to make sure you have rubber gloves and a bucket on hand to catch any debris that the clog may dislodge or break up. You’ll also want to remove your home’s P-Trap, if it’s still in place. Once the clog is cleared, you’ll need to replace the trap arm and any stoppers or covers. You should then run water through your drain to ensure that it’s completely clear and fully functioning. Also, remember to wash and store your snake properly after every use to avoid clogs down the road.