For a system that operates on simple principles, the plumbing system has a headspinning number of things that can go wrong with it. The number of tools that can be used to fix the messes can be equally bewildering.
Here are five plumbing tools that a homeowner absolutely must have to either fix a problem or calm it down until the plumber shows up. They are:
This is a wrench used largely on iron pipes and round fittings. The advantage of this wrench is that it has an adjustable, toothed jaw that tightens as it is turned. Because of this, plumbers recommend that the wrench not be used on hard steel or iron because it may mar the surface. Stillson wrenches can be relatively small or have handles as long as 4 feet. Their jaws and teeth are made of steel and can be replaced.
There are some tight spaces in a plumbing system that need to be worked on, and a basin wrench is one of the tools to use. The basin wrench is used to reach between the sink and the wall to tighten and untighten the nut that connects the fresh water line to a faucet.
The basin wrench has a long shaft attached to a spring loaded head. Like the Stillson wrench, it has teeth and gets tighter as the head is turned by the action of a bar at the bottom of the shaft. A person turns the basin wrench counterclockwise to loosen a nut and clockwise to tighten it.
This is also called pipe thread sealing tape. It is used on threaded plumbing pipes made of nearly every material including copper, CPVC, PVC or steel. For this tape to make a firm seal, it should be wound in the opposite way that the fitting is tightened. This usually means that the thread is wound clockwise. The thread should be wrapped around two to three times to make a good seal. If the fitting has to be removed, the tape should be replaced.
It is an unusual household that does not have a plunger somewhere in the vicinity. These inexpensive tools loosen clogs in drains so they can be washed or flushed away. The plunger works by forcing air into the toilet trap, then creating a vacuum when it is pulled back. This causes whatever is clogging the toilet to be pulled up then sucked down. Some experts recommend that the bell of the plunger be full of water to add more force to dislodging the clog.
This is also called a plumber’s snake and is used to loosen clogs that haven’t been moved by the plunger. They work when a coil of metal is unspooled down the drain or the toilet by a crank. The end of the snake has an auger that can physically break up tough clogs. Closet augers work on the same principle but they are for toilets. They’re specifically made to not damage the toilet’s porcelain.
These are only five of the tools that a homeowner needs for their plumbing. They should be the best tools that the homeowner can afford, for high quality tools can last a lifetime. Another tip is to rent, not buy, a very specialized tool for a job that’s only going to be performed once or twice.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Longmont, CO heating repair.