What Plumbing Tools Should You Have in Your House
Of course, as a former plumbing contractor, I'd like all consumers to call a professional plumber to fix your home plumbing woes. However, I know that's not realistic and honestly, there are plumbing tools every home should have to tackle the easy stuff. In fact, there are some here that virtually eliminate some of the most common plumbing service calls. For a small investment, every household can be prepared for the inevitable plumbing issues that come up.
It is basically a flexible cable that is coiled inside a canister with a self-feeding auger bit on the end. The canister is usually connected to a handle and the canister has a knob to turn the rod. The rod is manually pulled out, a set screw is tightened around the cable to lock it in place and the cable is inserted into the clogged line; the rod is rotated to break-up the blockage.
This tool is very easy to use and is great for clearing blockages in kitchen sinks, lavatories and tub drains that aren’t too far from the fixture drain. This rod is not meant to be used on a toilet. The rod is neither big enough in diameter nor rigid enough to be effective for toilet blockages. Homeowners also tend to think "the harder I rotate the auger the quicker the blockage will be removed". You have to let the tool do the work. If you rotate too forcefully you run the risk of kinking the rod.
The Best Sink Augers On The Market
Ridgid is one of the oldest and most respected companies in the plumbing industry. Their quality and dependability are second to no one. If you're going spend your hard-earned dollars on a canister auger this should be the one.
General Pipe Cleaners R-25SM Spin Through Drain Auger - If I don't buy Ridgid I buy General Pipe Cleaner. They are a company committed to building great products for the plumbing professional. If it's good enough for the pro it's good enough for the homeowner.
Ridgid 36003 115V K-45AF-5 Sink Drain Cleaning Machine - This is the one medium-duty drum auger on the list. It is electric powered and professional grade. It is what a plumber would use first if they were called out to rod a sink or shower drain.
Vevor 26ft Portable Electric Drain Auger - This is a light-duty electric powered drain auger. I am not familiar with the brand but it does sell well on Amazon and it's relatively cheap for a powered unit. This is great for the homeowner that wants a more versatile tool but doesn't want to pay the hefty price tag of a Ridgid.
Closet Auger (also called toilet auger or water closet auger)
The closet auger is probably the most useful plumbing tool a homeowner can buy for their home. It consists of spring cable ending in a self-feed auger head, it ends with a handle that when inserted into the toilet can be turned to break up a stoppage and it comes in two sizes ½” x 3 1/2ft and ½” x 6ft. Buy the 6ft if you can afford it, the extra 2 1/2ft really comes in handy and can usually push the blockage to the main.
Best Closet Augers On The Market
RIDGID 59797 K-6 6ft Closet Auger – Again Ridgid is the class of the industry. Almost every plumbing service truck in America has one of these and yes I recommend the 6ft version. 3ft isn’t long enough so don’t waste your time or money buying one. They are heavy-duty so if you buy one there is a good chance you won’t buy another in your life-time. Almost all homes have run into a clogged toilet where a plunger just won’t work. Why buy a plunger unless you’re one of those households that need one right beside the toilet for frequent use. No house should be without one of these. You get what you pay for and take my advice this is the one tool you want to spend a little more money on. I’ve used many cheap versions and I’ve broken them while using several times.
General Pipe Cleaners I-T6FL-DH Closet Auger, Professional 6′ Flexicore Snake with Drop Head – If Ridgid is #1 this is #1A. It actually has some features that are exclusive to the General version. It is built with the same quality and durability as the Ridgid. This closet auger has a drop head, a drop head is a self-feeding head that is attached loosely which allows it to drop into waste branches with ease. If you’re augering your toilet and there is a waste branch connected to it it will drop into it if the clog is in the branch. A normal auger is very stiff and might jump over the branch. There is one thing I dislike about this product, the head is rather large and it can be tough to maneuver around in waste lines servicing water closets.
Cobra Products 49360 TELESCOPIC TOILET AUGER – Cobra makes some great products, in fact, Cobra Pro’s closet auger is one of the best on the market, dare I say better than the first two. This one is six foot and a solid buy for the homeowner.
The flange or bell plunger is a type of plunger that when inserted into toilet seals at the bottom of the bowl. By the use of pressure when pushed and suction when pulled back the blockage cleared.
Best Flange Plungers On The Market
Korky 93-8 Original Korky Plunger – Korky has been making toilet repair parts for as long as I’ve been in the plumbing business. If you haven’t used a Korky product in your business to repair a toilet you’ve lived under a rock. This is the best and most durable plunger on the market. It’s another product that you probably only have to buy once unless you have some family members with real issues.
Get Bats Out Toilet Plunger - This is a strong seller on Amazon and it’s heavy-duty.
SteadMax Double Thrust Heavy Duty Plunger – Heavy duty build with a stainless steel handle and hey you get a three-pack for each toilet in the house. No more yelling across the house for the plunger.
Korky Black or White Flange Plunger w/Holder - It’s a Korky, you can get it in black or white so you can make people think it’s not a plunger because it blends and it’s got a holder so all the wastewater can sit conveniently in the bottom of the receptacle. Can you tell I don’t like plunger holders? They are kinda gross but they sell and if you like em here you go.
The cup plunger, it’s found in almost every home with modern plumbing fixtures, it uses suction push and pull clogs out of drain lines. It is most commonly used with tub, sink and shower drains. It can be used for a toilet blockage but a flange or bell plunger is much more effective.
Best Cup Plungers On The Market
Liquid-Plumr 670040 Mini Sink and Drain Plunger – This is a handy little plumbing tool. It’s a shorty, and it’s mostly used for kitchen and lavatory sinks. The handle is really too short to be used on a shower but you can make it work if you want to kneel.
Home-X – Mini Plunger with Ergonomic Handle – his one is very different in look and feel. It is certainly more geared towards home use. It uses an accordion-style cup to give you some added pushing power. This gets great reviews and is great for homeowners.
Tongue and Groove Pliers
This tool is probably the most useful tool in a plumbers tool bucket and is common and useful in the home as well. It consists of two arms ending serrated jaws that can be slid to accommodate things of small and large diameters. It’s uses are endless from tightening nuts and bolts to tightening a slip joint on a P-trap under a kitchen sink to a plumbing professional knocking the last thread off a piece of all-thread rod after cutting so they can screw a nut on the end. The other name for this tool and it is more commonly used than sliding lock pliers is Channel Locks®, however, this is a company that actually produces this type and many other types of tools. Think of it like Kleenex® or Wave Runner® one of those iconic words that are an actual brand.
Best Tongue And Groove Pliers On The Market
Channellock 426 6.5-Inch Straight Jaw Tongue and Groove Pliers – This is most popular adjustable slide lock/tongue and groove plumbers, pliers on the market. They were the first and still considered the goto. I know of no plumbing company that doesn’t use them in all sizes.
IRWIN VISE-GRIP GrooveLock Pliers Set, V-Jaw, 2-Piece – First of all Irwin makes great products. They are more of a general tool manufacturer not focusing on any one trade like say Ridgid. However, they do make several tools geared toward the plumber and the Groove Lock pliers are one of them. Plumbers really like the grip on these pliers and some prefer them to Channellock.
TEKTON 7-Inch Tongue and Groove Pliers – This is a US tool manufacturer based in Grand Rapids Michigan, they make quality products but are not one of the more popular brand in the plumbing industry. That doesn’t mean they are unworthy of purchase. These are not cheaply made tools.
MAXPOWER Tongue and Groove Pliers Set. Push Button Quick Adjust – I am not very familiar with this brand but they are based in the United States. I wanted to feature these because as a set they are a great value and they have a unique feature. You press a button on the side of the pliers to open the jaws wider. No other maker of tongue and groove pliers has this feature so they are extremely easy to use. For a homeowner this a great option especially if you aren’t a heavy-duty user.
This tape is commonly used by wrapping threaded plumbing joint connections. It fills in the small gaps between the threads ensuring a positive seal. It can be used on shower heads, or threaded water connections. It can also be used for gas piping applications like piping the gas to a natural gas grill or to a fire place Its formal name is PTFE (PolyTetraFluoroEthylene), it feels rather silky in texture. Teflon tape comes in ½”, ¾” and 1” width in various lengths.
Best Teflon Tape On The Market
LA-CO 44088 Slic-Tite PTFE Pipe Thread Tape, Premium Grade [600 Length, 1 Wide] – I love LA-CO products, their corporate headquarters is in the Chicagoland area. They are innovators in the plumbing chemical space and they care a ton about their products and how they make it easier on the plumbing professional. There are many others out there but this is one is the class of the bunch.
LASCO 11-1033 PTFE Pipe Sealant Tape – Lasco is a manufacturer of many plumbing products and accessories. I’m not certain they make this product but Lasco has a good reputation in the plumbing industry so there is no issue purchasing this product.
Adjustable Pipe Wrench
What tool comes to mind when you think of a plumber or plumbing, or plumbing repair? The adjustable pipe wrench. This tool provides tremendous leverage and grip. Its leverage is increased by the length of the wrench, the longer the wrench the better the leverage As you tighten the wrench around the pipe or object by use of the circular knob, its designed allow it grip round objects (such as pipes) securely by digging its serrated teeth into the pipe as pressure is applied to the wrench while it is turned. This tool is used for tightening rough plumbing pipe and fittings. Because of its serrated teeth and the pressure being applied, it is known to leave teeth marks on the pipe, therefore, it should not be used on trim plumbing such as chrome flush valves or to tighten faucets An adjustable crescent wrench or an Adjustable Spud Wrench should be used in these situations. Just as a side note, we love aluminum pipe wrenches and so do most plumbers but they are probably the most stolen hand tool on a job site. They are significantly lighter than their steel counterparts.
Best Adjustable Pipe Wrenches On The Market
Ridgid 31000 6″ Pipe Wrench – As you’ve read in this article, I’m a fan of Ridgid. This is probably the best selling wrench they make. The 6″ model featured her is perfect for most home applications. If you buy one now and apply some WD40 to the adjustment ring you can give it to one of your kids when you downsize 40 years from now. They are darned near indestructible.
REED RW8 8″ Heavy-Duty Pipe Wrench – This is another old-time US-based tool manufacturer. If I didn’t buy Ridgid I bought Reed. Most times this is a preference. The bottom line is you’re getting the same type of quality and durability. This pipe wrench is a bit bigger and can handle larger pipe sizes.
Adjustable Crescent ® Wrench
This is another must-have item for the homeowner and Crescent® is actually a brand name of an adjustable wrench. It features a jaw that is adjustable by way of a rolling gear. You adjust the wrench to the size of the nut or bolt. A very useful tool in that you don’t have to carry all the different sizes wrenches in your plumbers tool box. However when something needs to be very tight the adjustable wrench can slip off the nut or bolt potentially damaging the head or the bolt and your knuckles if something is close.
Best Adjustable Crescent Wrench On The Market
Crescent AT212VS Home Hand Tools Wrenches Adjustable – The original and still the best. There isn’t a lot to making an adjustable wrench other than the type of steel and how they cast the tool. Suffice to say Crescent makes some of the finest tools on the planet.
Adjustable Spud Wrench
Think of spud wrench as a cross between and adjustable Crescent® wrench and an adjustable pipe wrench. It is adjusted in the same manner as an adjustable pipe wrench but has the smooth jaws of an adjustable Crescent® wrench. This tool is used when more torque is needed to tighten heads of square, hex or octagonal shape but a toothed pipe wrench may damage the surface.
The picture below is a tubing cutter used to cut copper tubing and is a necessary tool where it is important to have a square cut so that fittings are properly fitted. The tubing cutter is used by holding the copper tubing, securing the cutter around the pipe between the rollers and the cutting wheel at the place the cut is to be made. Then you rotate the cutter around the pipe tightening the knob at the end slightly with each spin. This applies increased pressure on the pipe until the pipe is cut cleanly. After the cut is made there will be a burr around the entire circumference of the pipe, this needs to be taken out with a deburring tool that is usually a part of the tool itself. Deburring the inside of the pipe is an important step to take before assembling the pipe and fittings. See Pipe Turbulence.
Best Tubing Cutters On The Market
RIDGID 40617 Model 101 Close Quarters Tubing Cutter – As will most tools you get what you pay for, there is no exception with copper tubing cutters. Ridgid makes the best tubing cutters on the market and this model is such a valuable tool for the homeowner and plumber alike. Many times you find yourself in a tight spot and a traditional tubing cutter just won’t fit. This is a close quarters tubing cutter and it cuts copper from 1/4″ to 1 1/8″. Honestly, if you had this tubing cutter in your toolbox you may not need another.
LENOX 21010-TC11/8 1/8-to-1-1/8-Inch Tubing Cutters – I’m a bit of a tubing cutter snob. We only used Lenox or Ridgid so my only recommendations will only be from those two companies. This is Lenox’s version of the above. Its more expensive but it’s a great product.
RIDGID 31632 Model 151 Quick-Acting Tubing Cutter – This is a traditional style tubing cutter that cuts copper from 1/4″ to 1 7/8″. Together with the cutter featured above you have what you need to tackle any issue in the home.
Did you ever wonder how a plumber gets the nuts on and off a faucet underneath a kitchen sink or lavatory when the space is tight and visibility is hampered by pipes being in the way? They use a basin wrench, its a tool that only has one real use but it’s inexpensive and pretty easy to use. A basin wrench actually looks like a steel bar with a curved head with teeth on one end. The other end ends with a T handle. Obviously turn the water off before using. Go under the sink and position the head at a 90 angle catching the nut, turn in the appropriate direction to remove and your all set. If the sink faucet is too high to reach you may have to pull out the extended handle.
Best Basin Wrench On The Market
RIDGID 31175 Model 1017 Basin Wrench, 10-inch to 17-inch Telescoping Basin Wrench – This is a pretty useful tool. This is a telescoping model which allows you to adjust the length of the shaft depending on how far up you have to go to reach the faucet you’re working on.
TEKTON WRN92001 Basin Wrench, 3/8-Inch to 1-Inch Capacity, 11-Inch Reach – Unlike the previous model this one is a static 11″. You may never need more length to reach a faucet nut so this is a great choice.
Plumbers Tool Box
Now that you have all of your plumbers tools squared away you’re gonna a need a plumbers tool box to house your stash. There are a bunch of options to choose from and most plumbers like what they like. Some guys like hard handheld tool boxes, my father loved his medium-sized vinyl tool bag, tool backpacks are very popular and probably the most popular amongst plumbers is the use of a simple 5-gallon bucket with a canvas liner. Below are my favorite plumbers tool boxes.
DEWALT DGL523 Lighted Tool Backpack Bag, 57-Pockets – I’ve never used a backpack style tool carrier but they are super popular. The number of pockets never really impressed me but this backpack has plenty of room for the average toolset.
DEWALT TSTAK Tool Box, Deep, Long Handle (DWST17814) – To my knowledge this is rectangle box with no compartments. You throw all of your stuff into the box and you’re done. Most plumbers like to have specific places for each tool so there is very little lost motion in their workday. If you’re looking for a basic tool box this is one of the best.
McGuire-Nicholas 22015 15-Inch Collapsible Tote – I love these almost as much as a bucket. The only issue is that they aren’t as deep and the middle compartment can be a little small. If you’re a homeowner this should suffice.