Plumbing Tools

Recommended Reading Prev: Septic Systems Next related page, article or category Unclogging Fixtures /Sinks and Tubs
Drain-Cleaning Tools

Drain-Cleaning Tools

Generally, it’s far better to clear drains using mechanical methods than to use chemical drain cleaners. Chemical cleaners can harm some drain pipes and be very damaging to septic systems. Further, splashing drain cleaners can harm humans, pets and surrounding surfaces.

Right: Trap-and-drain auger: Used to clear stubborn, distant clogs. Also called a snake, it’s a long, flexible spring-like metal tube with a spiral hook at one end and a locking handle at the other. The design helps push and break up the clog. Manual and drill-powered augers are available in varying lengths and thicknesses. Power augers are available for clearing main drains.

Right: Plunger: Essential for clearing less stubborn clogs in sinks, toilets and even floor drains. Its funnel-type cup helps with plunging toilets and can be folded inward for plunging sinks.

Right: Closet (toilet) auger: A shorter auger with a crank handle specifically designed for clearing stubborn toilet clogs.

Specialty Wrenches: In addition to conventional tools, several specialized wrenches quickly pay for themselves when you’re doing plumbing work. These days, many plumbing fixtures, especially faucets, include specialty tools such as deep sockets and hexagonal Allen wrenches in the packaging; hold on to them for later use.

Specialty Wrenches

In addition to conventional tools, several specialized wrenches quickly pay for themselves when you’re doing plumbing work. These days, many plumbing fixtures, especially faucets, include specialty tools such as deep sockets and hexagonal Allen wrenches in the packaging; hold on to them for later use.

Right: Spud wrench. Used for turning large, flat-sided nuts, such as locknuts on a sink drain. Get one that’s adjustable.

Right: Basin wrench. Used to tighten hard-to-reach nuts on the underside of a faucet behind the sink bowl. Has spring-loaded jaws at a right angle to its long handle.

Right: Chain wrench. Used for large-diameter and hard-to-reach pipes. The chain loops around a pipe to hold it.

Right: Strap wrench. Functions in a manner similar to a chain wrench except a strap replaces the chain to protect pipes with polished surfaces.


Tools for Working with Pipe

Tools for Working with Pipe

With a few relatively inexpensive cutting and shaping tools, you can work efficiently with almost any type of pipe, except galvanized and black pipe, which most hardware stores will cut to length and thread at little or no extra cost.

Right: Pipe cutter. Primarily for cutting copper pipe, but can be used for plastic pipe. Guide wheels and cutter wheel work together to make a clean, round cut. Smaller, tight-area cutters are ideal for remodeling work.

Right: Flaring tool. Used to widen ends of flexible metal pipe before joining with a flare fitting. Flaring tool shown works for multiple sizes of pipe, but specifically sized flaring tools are also available.

Right: Pipe wrench. An adjustable wrench with serrated jaws. Keep two on hand—one large wrench for holding the fitting and a medium-size one for turning the pipe.

Right: Hacksaw. Cuts most pipe, but ends tend to be rough and uneven. Works best with small pipe.

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Recommended Reading

Remodel Plumbing (For Pros by Pros)

Remodel Plumbing (For Pros by Pros)

Book Description

by Rex Cauldwell

Remodel Plumbing focuses on the challenges of working in tight spaces like bathrooms and utility rooms, selecting the right fittings, fixtures, and materials and completing expert alterations to a home's existing water supply, drain, and vent systems. With a special section on emergency plumbing repairs, the book enables readers to stop leaks, shut down water lines, and avoid major damage associated with plumbing malfunctions. Remodel Plumbing also covers common plumbing upgrades and alterations in kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, basements, and additions.

Topics include:

toilet flange, main water line, cartridge housing, pipe dope, dishwasher drain, tub spout, cutter wheel, main shutoff valve, tubing cutter, filter head, male adapter, proper slope, individual vent, sewage pump, drain line, shower base, female threads, compression fittings, elbow fitting, galvanized pipe, finished wall, silicone caulk, shower faucet, stop valves, drain system


We recently remodeled a bathroom, and this guide saved us time and frustration. When our first attempts at sweating copper pipes failed, we looked to this guide and found very thorough instructions on each step of the process. The information on different types of solder and flux with a wider working temperature range was especially valuable. As a result, our next attempt with the copper connections was successful. The section on installing a pedestal sink was very clear and helpful, as was the information on choosing a toilet. The book also helped us diagnose and solve a problem with water hammer. I am sure that we will use this guide as a resource for our next plumbing challenge.

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Plumber's Handbook

Plumber's Handbook

Book Description

by Howard C. Massey "If you've chosen plumbing as your profession, you should find it one of the most challenging and satisfying of all construction trades..."

Topics include:

greasy waste system, outside grease interceptor, service supply pipe, inside grease interceptor, lint interceptor, established sizing methods, grease interceptor installations, oil spill holding tank, peak draw period, maximum gas demand, drainfield tile, commercial food waste grinder, local gas code, commercial grease interceptors, fire standpipe system, indirect waste pipe, valved zones, waste oil storage tank, water service supply, correct pipe size, directional tee, flow control fitting, public sewer lateral, recommended storage capacity, graywater discharge


A plumbing detail lover's dream

I'm a man the thrives on detailed information. And I salute this Howard Massey for producing this first-rate plumbing book! Beware, this isn't a book for weekend Joe looking to learn how to replace a faucet washer. Even if your not in the plumbing trade, but are serious about learning to understand and design plumbing service for your home or business, you have found the book you want.

So many technical books paint their subject with such broad brush strokes that, after reading the book, the reader is left to discover for themselves (as in "the hard way") what necessary detail was omitted. Not this guide. It's complete, well organized, well indexed, and riddled with excellent photographs and illustrations.

While the book is entirely in in black and white, the author very effectively used an artist with a computer to expertly draw most of the illustrations. The fidelity of the graphics is worthy of a graphic arts how-to book.

To give you a sense of how thorough and complete this guide is, I'll describe the problem I recently used it to understand and solve. A family friend, who is a veterinarian, recently mortgaged everything to buy her own animal hospital. As soon as she bought is the drains started backing up. Roto-Rooter started coming monthly to remove pet hair from the sewer pipes. I went to the "Plumbers Handbook" and it not only had a section on trapping hair, it even had a topic specific to the control of hair generated by kennels and animal care facilities!

What a super book!


Not the book if you are plumbing your own house

I'm building my own house and bought this guide as a plumbing reference. It has pretty much sat on the shelf. It is more oriented toward the full time plumber who is doing multiple types of jobs. Too much time spent on the many fascets of plumbing and too little time spent on how it applies to doing a residential job.

Instead I'd recommend "Complete Home Plumbing" by Sunset books. That book has been my first read when a question comes up.

Plumbing Concepts - Residential and Small Commercial,

Excellent book for designers and architects to use for residential and small commerical structures. Provides the Plumbers point of view on necessary design elements for layout of fixtures, pipes, etc.

Provides excellent explanation on how to read a plumbing design layout and superb insight in to the plumbing codes. Provides the details that will allow a designer or architect to adequately communicate with plumbing contractors.

Good overview for architects/designers and a very useful study guide for plumbers and plumbing contractors.

Plumber's Handbook

A must have for any licensed Plumber! Of all the years that I have been plumbing this guide is the most concise I have come across. I use it as a study guide for my apprentices. The section reviews help to tie the book together.

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Unclogging Fixtures /Sinks and Tubs


Last modified: Friday, 2007-11-02 22:03 PST