The history of plumbing is more ancient than you might think. This craft is wrapped in layers of sophistication, for it can be dated back to the age of ancient civilizations.
Do you know it was the Mesopotamians who first introduced the world to the art of plumbing around 4000 BCE? Interesting, right?
Of course, as civilization progressed, so did the crafts like plumbing, welding, and woodwork. To survive is to change, and so did these professions. Their methods and tools have also changed and modified so everything functions as smoothly as possible.
This article, however, focuses entirely on the plumbing world. This is a promising sector, and the pay is also quite decent. So, if you want to start your career in this, all the best!
Now, any technician…say a plumber, is as good as his/her tools. Hence, the more complete your arsenal is, the better you’ll be able to do the job.
This job, you can take my word for it, will pose different types of challenges when you’re working. It’s achingly unpredictable… in a good way. That’s why you must be well-prepared to combat any unexpected tasks that might come your way.
So, what tools will you need to get up and running in plumbing? Keep reading to find out.!
- A Quick Glance of the Main Course
- Wrenches You Should Get Yourselves
- Tools for Tackling Pipework
- Tools a Plumber Needs for Clearing Clogs/Drains
- Safety Tools for a Plumber
- My Final Two Cents
A Quick Glance of the Main Course
I’ve divided the next bit into four categories so that you won’t get tired of reading. These categories will also help you to comprehend things a bit better.
You won’t feel bogged down by a long list(spoiler) of tools anymore. Also, I tried to make some suggestions at some points to give you a better understanding of the corresponding tool.
In the first part, you’ll see the bread and butter of plumbing: Wrenches. Eight different kinds of wrenches, to be exact. You’ll know about their nature and what their functions are. If you’re new to this area, this information will significantly help you.
Then comes tools that you’ll need for pipe work. In this part, you’ll learn tools like tube cutter, hole saw kit, pipe and tube benders, hacksaw, plastic pipe cutters, plumber’s torch, acid flux brush, and many more.
After describing pipe-work-related tools, we’ll focus on drain/clog cleaning tools. This is another essential part of a plumber’s job description. Here, we’ll discuss tools such as plungers, hand augers, and snake machines.
And in the final part, you’ll see gadgets that’ll help you stay safe and secure while you’re on the job. This includes goggles, heat shields, and gloves. With that said, let’s begin with the wrenches.
Wrenches You Should Get Yourselves
To ensure you don’t embarrass yourself on the job, you have to have at least 4 or 5 types of wrenches in your toolbox. You never know what kind of wrench you’ll need. Therefore, it’s better to estimate the possible tasks and be prepared. So, which wrenches should you have?
1. Pipe Wrench
If you’re working with pipes, this will be your go-to tool. It’s one of the most common tools that you can find in a plumber’s toolbox. Used for tightening and loosening the nuts of the pipes, a pipe wrench does come in various lengths.
As a matter of fact, this tool is classified by the length of the handle. You can find pipe wrenches between 6 inches to 48 inches. Now, if you’re just a beginner, you can get away with a standard-sized pipe wrench. But generally, professional plumbers carry the entire set of it.
2. Adjustable wrench
Its function is almost the same as the pipe wrench. Plumbers use this to either tighten or loosen the nuts of a pipe. The main difference between these two is that you’ll use the adjustable wrench for performing lightweight tasks.
Given its relatively small size, you can efficiently work with nuts and bolts in hard-to-reach areas.
For example, you can’t tighten the nut behind a toilet using a pipe wrench. At least, not without some major difficulty. Or, if you’re trying to install a faucet on the sink, a pipe wrench wouldn’t be an intelligent choice. So, on occasions like these, a decent adjustable wrench will help you complete your tasks without giving you a hard time.
Tip: Slip-joint pliers really come in handy when you have to work with uncommon square or hexagonal-shaped nuts. The best way to approach them is to use slip-joint pliers.
On the other hand, you can use the adjustable wrench to work on common nuts and bolts. This combo will help you tackle any task that may come before you.
3. Basin Wrench
This kind of wrench is perfect for working on faucets. They have a t-shaped body with a clamp at the bottom. Using this, one can easily work in a small space. The clamp mechanism ensures you don’t have any issues tightening or loosening any nuts where it’s hard to maneuver.
Tip: Now, before purchasing one, make sure it has an adjustable height. Why? Well, a basin wrench with an extendable option will let you work on basins with different heights and depths. Having such a tool will give you the mental peace that you’re fully prepared for the job.
4. Faucet Key
Before you start judging what a faucet key is doing in the wrench section, let me explain…
I understand if your mind is fixated on the fact that this isn’t a wrench. Well, you’re absolutely right. However, a faucet key has a vital role to play in every plumber’s life. At one point or another, you’ll come across spigots and sillcocks.
And nothing feels better than having a set of faucet keys to deal with these different kinds of stem fittings. Having it in your arsenal means you’re a dedicated plumber who takes his job seriously.
5. Shower Valve Socket Wrench
Well, to complete any shower projects, you’ll need a shower valve socket wrench. You can’t simply complete given tasks without these wrenches. Using them, you can easily install and remove any shower valves, nuts, and bolts.
6. Strainer Locknut wrench
These wrenches are a must to have to work on strainer locknut. I guess you could try to remove them with the help of an adjustable wrench or pliers. I’m not saying these tools won’t work. They will, but the strainer locknuts are very hard to work with. So, get yourself a strainer locknut wrench and make your life easier.
7. No-Hub Torque Wrench and Internal pipe wrench
The first one is useful for applying specific torque to a nut or bolt. You can also use this tool to work on couplings and pipe installation. The handle is designed in a T-shaped manner for better accuracy and ease of action.
As a result, you’ll be able to work in a tight space and apply the right amount of pressure. Now, why is it important to maintain the correct amount of torque? As a plumber, if you fail to do so while connecting two pipes, there’ll be a reasonable possibility of leakage. Now, you don’t want that, do you?
The plumbers mainly use the internal pipe wrench to get rid of old rusted fitting on galvanized pipes. Besides, you can also use them to remove threaded ends of pipes and pipe plugs as well.
Tools for Tackling Pipework
In plumbing, most of the work is pipe related. So, it’s safe to say that about 80 percent of your work will be with pipes. You’ll spend a lot of time cutting or sealing pipes. Now, to complete any pipe-related tasks, you have to have some essential tools with you all the time. Let’s check them out one by one.
1. Hacksaw and Tube cutter
A decent hacksaw is a plumber’s best friend. This is his go-to tool to manipulate pipes. Using this, you can cut through pipes, studs, and rebar. Before joining two different pipes, you must ensure their proportion is accurate, right? You’ll need a hacksaw to cut them according to the required measurements.
However, they can be used for multiple purposes as well. For example, a good hacksaw can easily cut through nuts and bolts. So, to complete any pipe-related tasks, you simply can’t do without a hacksaw. Therefore, getting one that is strong and exceptionally durable is wise. Take DeWalt DWHT20547L, for example.
It has a good build quality, is lightweight, and thanks to its compact design, you can work in tight areas. It also has interchangeable blades and an adjustable blade tension feature.
Since we’re talking about cutting and joining things, let’s look at the versatile tube cutter tool. Now, why do you need it? First, a tube cutter will help you make accurate and precise cuts on any type of tube, from copper, aluminum, brass, to plastic.
Besides, it’s an excellent choice for manipulating pipes in restricted spaces. Using a decent tube cutter like RIDGID 32975 Model 103 will give you total control over your cutting pressure. And not to mention, this durable and robust product will give you accurate and precise cuts.
2. Plastic Pipe Cutter and Hole Saw Kit
Everything is becoming lighter these days, and pipes are no different from this notion. They are, however, solid and durable to keep the integrity of your property intact. So, as a plumber, you’ll often run into plastic pipes. Yes, you can work with them with your hacksaw, but it’ll be overkill.
In that case, simply use a good plastic pipe cutter. They are cheap and quite easy to maneuver. Hence, before setting out for work, don’t forget to stock your toolbox with a decent pair of these. Now, if I had to recommend one, I would go with AIRAJ Ratchet PVC Pipe Cutter.
Why? Well… apart from being a strong and durable tool, you can use this on any type of plastic without any worries. You can cut from PVC, CPVC, PPR, PEX, and PE into tubes that come with several layers. The design is practical and ergonomic, so you’ll have a good working experience.
As for the hole saw, it does what its name suggests…plumbers use this tool to create perfect-sized holes in pipes. A typical hole saw comes with a ring-shaped blade that’s 1 to 4 inches in diameter. And to cut things effortlessly, they’re equipped with steel teeth.
To keep up with the high demand, all the top manufacturers are keen on making the best hole saw kits. There are excellent choices all around. You can either go with the Bi-Metal Hole Saw Kit from SUNGATOR or the LENOX Tools Hole Saw Kit (308042000G).
3. Locking Pliers and Pipe Bender
Both of these tools will help you to work with pipes a lot. Locking pliers, also known as mole grips, have jaws that can be adjusted. Using these adjustable jaws, you can hold a pipe firmly and do any work on it. For example, if you want to cut a pipe or make holes in it, it has to be perfectly still to do the job.
The locking feature makes this plier stand out from other ordinary pliers. So, make sure you have one that suits your preference. If you don’t have time to do homework on this, you can look at KNIPEX Cobra Hightech Water Pump Pliers (250 mm) 87 01 250. It offers the users maximum adaptation to different sizes of pipes and a comfortable work experience.
Moving on to the pipe bender helps you manipulate the pipes more efficiently and simply. Just imagine what would be better. Cutting and joining two different pipes to make a corner or just bending one without breaking it?
I guess you’ve found your answer. Yes, a decent pipe and tube bender would undoubtedly do any plumber a world of good. Using this tool, you can bend pipes and tubes into complex shapes without a sweat.
Now, to purchase one, you can use the Irwin HILGLM Hilmor as your standard bender. This is one of the most capable tube benders you can find on the market. But if you have to work within a tight budget, by all means, you can check out the Silverline MS124 Heavy Duty Pipe Bender Kit.
4. Plumber’s Torch and Acid Flux Brush
To build your reputation as a professional plumber, you must know everything about soldering. This is an advanced skill to have on your resume. Using this technique, a plumber joins pipes using solder. It is mainly a metal filler that connects two copper pipes.
Most households use copper pipes these days since they are easier to work with and more bacteria resistant. However, to be able to work with copper pipes, you’ll need a blowtorch. The process consists of heating the pipes and applying solder filler. You’ll mainly need either propane or MAAP gas as the torch.
Investing in this tool will prove to be fruitful in the coming days, and there’s no doubt about it. So, what should you go with? Well, let me make two humble suggestions, and based on them, you can do further research.
This is widely popular for its versatility. It comes with three different tubes, and you can have the option to use it with either propane or MAAP gas.
To solder, you’ll need acid flux brushes along with a torch. There’s no better option than using a brush to distribute the paste to copper pipes. It’s cheap and makes soldering much easier.
5. Press Fitting System
I know it’s silly to talk about this one so late. But, a press fitting system is an integral part of connecting pipes. They make sure there’s no leakage whatsoever from any joints. Now, you could use the solder method, but it has been widely used in domestic properties for the past couple of years. Why?
Well, this fitting system has gained much popularity among plumbers because it takes less time to install. The process is basic and simple: join the pipes by inserting and fitting them together. Then press the fitting socket and the pipes using your press fitting tool.
6. Plumber’s Tape/ Thread Sealing Tape
As a plumber, you need to think beforehand. To prevent any leakage from happening in the future, you need to use quality thread sealing tape, also known as plumber’s tape. You can use this anywhere you want.
This may seem insignificant, but trust me, a professional plumber doesn’t shy away from spending good money to procure the best thread sealing tape for his project.
If you’re new to this, you may wonder how you differ from good-quality to low-quality. Well…it’s easy. The first will be resistant to any kind of temperature changes.
Apart from being never dried out, they can also make better seals. Unfortunately, the latter will not hold their station much longer and will wear down soon.
I don’t think I need to spend many words describing how important it is for a plumber to own a good set of quality pliers. You’ll need them to work with pipes all the time. Especially in tight areas where you can’t reach with a wrench, a slammer plier will help you get there.
8. Deburring Tool, Metal File, and Plumbing Brushes
From a general point of view, these three are mainly used for cleaning up pipes. However, the first one, the deburring tool, is essential for you to know…for getting rid of burrs from pipes.
There is no easier way to remove them from pipes. Also, they are reasonably cheap, and you can get a whole set of them for under 20 bucks!
For your information, there are three kinds of deburring tools. They are manual, rotary, and deburring blades. So, what should you have in your toolbox? Well, manual deburring tools are widely used for a better handling experience. So, if I were you, I would bet my money on this.
Now, the metal files are also used for cleaning purposes…in a sense. Plumbers always carry one with them to smooth the rough edges of the pipes after cutting them.
You should have a plumbing brush with long metal bristles to clean the pipe’s inside. There are no better alternatives to this tool. So, have one with you if you must work with pipes.
These little tools make a plumber’s job a lot easier, actually. They help them tidy things up and, thereby, produce better results.
Tools a Plumber Needs for Clearing Clogs/Drains
This is another crucial aspect of a plumber’s job. However, if you’re a homeowner reading this, I would humbly request you to learn to do this by yourself. You don’t need any high-profile tools to do this job.
And as for my plumber friend, you need to equip yourself with the following tools to complete this task successfully.
To clear clogs or blockages in drains, plungers will be your first line of attack. Most of the time, they will be able to clear any clogs. Now, you could get away with a standard plunger. But I recommend getting a heavy-duty plunger with more suction power than an average one.
Take Korky 96-4AM, for example. It’s a quite powerful plunger that comes with an adjustable-telescopic handle. It has enough pressure and suction power to dislodge most clogs. However, if plungers don’t seem to work, you have to call for big guns.
2. Hand Auger and Plumber’s Snake
For most homeowners, a powerful plunger will often do the trick. Plumbers, on the other hand, cannot rely on the power of the plunger only. They have to have a robust hand auger to clear stubborn clogs that a plunger might not be able to do.
A hand auger is a clever handheld device. Plumbers push a cable through its pipe and make way for other tools to easily break up the clogs. For example, RIDGID 59787 Model K-3 works quite fine, clearing tough clogs in pipes.
A good alternative to the hand auger is the plumber’s snake. This is the endgame stuff, as I would like to call it. In situations where plungers or hand augers don’t work, they will. A snake machine is mainly the motorized version of a hand auger.
If you’re serious about this part of the job, you may want to invest in a powered drain snake rather than a manual hand auger. The former will do the job much faster, and they will break the toughest clogs with ease.
Drain snakes are either battery or electric-powered. This could create some dilemmas in the minds of a plumber. What you should go with will depend on your personal preferences. So, as usual, I’m just going to present two ideal products from each stream.
For a battery-powered drain snake, you can bet your money on the MILWAUKEE M18. This will eliminate any problems regarding the absence of electric outlets. On the other hand, if you like to lean on an electric-powered tool, you can consider the RIDGID 42007 K-750.
Safety Tools for a Plumber
To make sure you stay safe and secure while you’re on the job, there are some things that you need to consider. For instance, you should be adequately clothed when you’re working from anything bad happening to you.
As a plumber, you’ll work in all sorts of problematic areas. Besides, sometimes you have to work with a blowtorch as well. So, let’s see what the things you need to have that’ll ensure your safety are.
On the surface, plumbing may seem like a safe profession compared to welding. However, a lot of things can go sideways while you’re working. So, the first thing you should do is protect your eyes. Anything can go into your eyes, from bacteria-infested water, dirt, and metal scrapings to hazardous waste.
Especially when you’re working on copper pipes with a blowtorch, the sparks can significantly harm your eyes. So, always wear safety goggles when you’re on the job site.
2. A Decent Pair of Gloves
Always wear a pair of gloves when you’re working. Do not…I repeat, do not work with bare hands. You’ll be handling a lot of things you usually wouldn’t dream of touching. So, get yourself a pair of decent gloves and keep them.
For instance, while cutting pipes or making holes in them, you must ensure the blades won’t touch your wrist or fingers. Heavy-duty gloves will make sure they stay safe. Besides, they will give you a better grip on tools. So even if you’re working during the hot summer days, your tools won’t slip from your hands.
3. Heat Shields
Before you start soldering, make sure your surroundings are protected. And to do so, use good quality head shields. This product will prevent you and your surroundings from catching fire. Sometimes, the heat from the torch could exceed the danger level. And when it does, controlling it could be a bit difficult.
Therefore, invest money in buying the best heat shields possible and keep your work environment safe. Don’t rely on cheap products, for they will wear out pretty soon and may even catch on fire.
My Final Two Cents
There are several things I haven’t included on my list of tools a plumber should have. The reason is you probably won’t need them straight away, or the alternatives are already here. However, this list of tools is quite expansive enough to start your career in plumbing.
And once you get the hang of it, you can slowly build your arsenal around this basic set of tools. I’m sure the tools I’ve included in this list will help you get through any plumbing tasks easily. However, there is still more room to grow.
Before I draw the curtain on this article, I just want to know your tools properly. The more you learn about them, the better you’ll understand the job. So, take your time and study them. And don’t settle for mediocre tools.
If you have to spend, spend once and wisely. Think of spending on good quality tools as an investment. Besides, having the right set of tools for the job reflects one’s professionalism and care for the job.