Let’s be honest here. Plumbing is not an easy task. It requires not just physical labor but also a lot of brainwork, calculating, and technical expertise.
It takes one week or even months to master how to use each tool and which tool should be used for what purpose.
Whether you’re thinking about starting a professional career in the plumbing business, or just a DIY enthusiast, every plumber must have a toolkit or a toolbox. But just like any other job, plumbing is more than just what it seems.
Plumbing is not just about plumbing. The task consists of traveling, installation, repairing, maintenance, waste disposal, and many other tasks.
All of these tasks, needless to say, require tools. Here I’ll be telling you about some of the essentials you should include in your plumbers’ starter toolkit and how to find the right ones.
Let’s Dissect A Plumbers’ Starter Toolkit
Since it will be a beginner’s toolkit, I’d only include the mandatory things that a plumbers’ toolkit must consist of. I’ve divided them into sections based on their usability so that you have no problem understanding the purpose of a tool, even if you’re a complete newbie in this field. Here they are:
What Would You Find for Safety?
No matter what you do, safety should always come first. So, make sure you have these pieces of safety equipment ready at hand before starting any kind of plumbing work.
Goggles And Masks
Plumbing involves a lot of tasks that can be hazardous, and precautions must be taken.
A pair of safety goggles and a mask can be a lifesaver (literally) when you’re going to be dealing with sulfur dioxide, solvents, and asbestos. A mask and a pair of goggles will protect your eyes and lungs from these fumes and substances emitted from the area when you’re plumbing.
You’ll find these goggles at a cheap rate at any hardware store or scientific store. And after the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, I don’t think I’d have to tell you where to find a mask.
A Pair of Gloves
Gloves do the same; they keep your hands safe and comfortable when working with chemicals or in an area with the substances mentioned above.
A pair of gloves, if they fit like a glove, can also help you get a better grip on slippery things. Try buying the rubber gloves available in hardware stores.
Heat Shields or Pads
When you’re plumbing, often times you’d need to work with blowtorches and wielding machines. Heat shields or pads will protect you from extreme heat exposure and help avoid fire accidents.
Different Types of Wrenches
Where do I start with wrenches? They are one of the most, if not the most, essential tools for a plumbing task. Different types of wrenches are made for various purposes. Here are some major ones:
Pipe wrenches are specifically designed for tightening or loosening pipe fittings. These wrenches have a curved head and a wheel that you can use to adjust the tightness of the wrench. This design helps to get a better grip on changing pipe fittings, especially threaded pipes.
As the name suggests, a basin wrench is specifically designed to install and uninstall the faucets in a basin or sink. These wrenches come with a long handle and an adjustable head that grant you access to tight spots that otherwise would’ve been impossible to reach.
There are a few varieties of basin wrenches available in the market. Try finding one that can turn clockwise and counter-clockwise for a more versatile performance.
Adjustable wrenches are almost like pipe wrenches but have differently shaped jaws. The other difference that they have with pipe wrenches is that they have an open end. This allows you to grip tricky-shaped things such as nuts and bolts and loosen and tighten them as required.
Accessories for Pipework
One of the trickiest tasks a plumber has to do is pipework. This means cutting through floorboards and walls to access pipes and cutting through pipes and tubes to customize them to suit fixes, repairs, and replacements. Here are some tools that will help you get the dirty job done.
Hacksaws are ideal for cutting through wood and plastic, and that’s why it’s a favorite among plumbers for cutting through PVC pipes. In addition, hacksaws usually have a simple design.
A square-ish C-shaped frame with a thin saw blade is used for cutting. The blade can be taken off and replaced if it gets dull from use. When buying a hacksaw, look for one that has a sturdy frame that serves as a good handle.
Otherwise, the hacksaw might slip from your hand while cutting and damage the work, not to mention cause injuries. Also, look for ones with an easily replaceable blade so you can change the blade when it gets blunt without any hassle.
Pipe cutters do the same job as a hacksaw, but they are handier and can even cut through metal pipes.
Pipe cutters come in a few different varieties. Each of these varieties is specifically designed for cutting through a certain type of pipe. For example, copper tubes, steel pipes, cast iron pipes, PVC tubing, CPVC, PEX, etc.
While working on copper piping, you might often need to seal it by soldering it. The tool that plumbers use for this task is called a plumber’s torch. Plumber’s torches are small handheld heat guns emitting extreme heat that can be applied to precise areas for soldering and sealing pipes.
Thread Sealing Tape
Thread sealing tape, or plumber’s tape, is used for patching up or preventing potential leaks and threaded joint connections.
A bundle of quality plumber’s tape will be immune to extreme high and low temperatures and is extremely stretchable. Another great thing about thread-sealing tape is that it never dries out.
Another tool regularly used by plumbers is pliers. They are mostly used for loosening and tightening nuts and bolts that are too small to be adjusted with a wrench. Since they are so small and easy to grip, they fit into a plumber’s hand effortlessly. As a result, they can work in tricky areas without any hassle.
Press Fitting Systems
One of the trickiest jobs a plumber has to do is connecting pipes. To do this job securely, there’s a tool called Iron Pipe Size (IPS) press fitting system. It physically presses a connection onto a pipe by producing an impermeable seal.
Pressure Test Kit
Pressure test kits can really come in handy when checking for leaks. Not only are they easy to use, but they’re also safe if you use them with flexible hoses wearing rubber boots. In addition, a pressure test kit can help you evaluate the pipework you have just done or re-evaluate the quality of an existing one.
Pipe Freezing Kit
There are different types of freezing tools available for freezing pipes. You have to pick one depending on your requirements and frequency of use.
Suppose you just want to make small fixes to your pipework without hassle draining the entire system. In that case, a simple freeing spray should get the job done in a matter of minutes.
But for those who like doing it old-school, clamp-based machines can be used on pipes of all sizes and materials as an alternative to the traditional plumbing tool set.
The right choice of pipe-bending equipment can save a plumber’s day. Although small pipe benders are handheld, don’t go for their size. This tiny machine monster can bend copper and pipes, no matter their size, up to 90 degrees. For better stability, use it in a vice.
This is the one tool that ensures the safety of the pipework you have done. Especially if you’re working in a plumbing area used for gas. Safety regulations require you to test domestic and commercial appliances with a U-gauge manometer and other testing tools such as hose and leak detection fluid.
No pipework is certified as safe for use without being tried and tested with a U-gauge manometer.
For Clogs And Blockages
The most common reason a plumber is called over is a clog or blockage in the system. In these cases, the problem isn’t the pipe, but something stuck inside it.
Since drain cleaning is one of the many tasks a plumber has to do regularly, here are some tools that they mostly use and always keep in their toolbox:
You’d probably find plungers in every household. But still, as a plumber, you should come equipped with your own.
An ideal plumber’s toolbox should have a complete set of heavy-duty flange and cup plungers in different sizes. The professional ones available in the market provide a better suction than those designed for average consumers.
A hand auger is a circular handheld device that helps you break apart and clear off clogs. There is a wide variety of variations and models in the market. In different sizes, models, and functionalities.
For instance, if you’re trying to unclog a toilet seat, you ought to use one of the larger varieties with a long handle. But a drain snake or a drain auger should do the job for smaller drains.
A borescope or inspection camera is a small device tethered by a long, flexible cable. It can be used to insert the camera down into drains and sewer lines to get a clear view of the condition of the piping that you’re working on.
These days, borescopes come in various designs; some can even be directly connected to a smartphone and operated remotely.
A plumber will need some extra stuff in his backpack as well. Let’s see what miscellaneous things a plumber’s starter kit needs to have. These are not a must, but you’ll not be at a loss by having them around.
Pipe Expanders and Fittings
One of the latest innovations in the plumbing industry is PEX piping and fittings. It’s a kind of flexible plastic material that is resilient, providing convenience and reliability like never before.
The job of a PEX expander is to widen the mouth of a PEX pipe to let you insert a metal fitting into it. Since PEX pipes return to their previous shape after cutting, the mouth of the pipe closes in on the fitting that’s been inserted.
Thus, it creates a perfect seal through which no water can leak.
Crimpers are a must-use when you’re working with PEX piping, but most plumbers use them for other types of piping too. ‘Crimping’ means deforming metal or other material by squeezing or bending them to join or hold them together. Crimpers are an excellent tool for doing that.
Screwdrivers are the most basic tool you’d find in any toolbox. Be it an engineer’s toolbox, a mechanic’s or a plumber’s, a screwdriver, or multiple ones, a permanent resident there.
For plumbers, a manual screwdriver mostly comes in handy when tightening or loosening a screw in a place that is hard to reach, thus, is unreachable with a regular electric screwdriver. For this job, plumbers usually use stubby screwdrivers with multiple flatheads.
Flow Rate Calculator
This is a comparatively new addition to a plumber’s toolbox, and it isn’t even a physical tool, to begin with. Nonetheless, it has done the job of calculating or converting units of measurement for volumetric flow rates.
For those who do not know, a flow rate calculator is software that helps plumbers measure and calculate the speed of water that flows through a pipe and the space it occupies based on the pipe’s diameter and the water’s velocity.
The application does these tricky calculations in a jiffy, saving you the trouble of doing complicated mathematical equations.
Some Final Words
Like any other craft, plumbing can be tricky and confusing when you’re just starting off. But like all other crafts, this one can also be mastered with enough time, dedication, and homework.
The sole purpose of writing this article was to help you with the homework. If you’ve got the right tools in your “Plumber’s Starter Kit,” half of the preparation is already done. Now, you can start your journey to mastering the craft of plumbing.