Plumbing jobs can range from unblocking the kitchen sink to installing the pipework for a new kitchen or bathroom. To undertake these types of jobs you will need a wide selection of general tools such as power drills, hammers, spanners, wrenches etc. These tools and many more have been described in other parts of this website. This section covers tools that are required for specific plumbing jobs and some additional general tools that don’t feature elsewhere on the website.
Blocked sinks and washbasins can be unblocked quickly and efficiently with a sink plunger. The rubber cup is placed over the plughole and by pumping the handle up and down, water and air is forced through the pipe, clearing the blockage.
A WC auger is used to unblock toilets and is designed to travel around the U-bend. It is made up of a flexible rod about 750mm (29in) in length with an auger at one end. The auger will have a vinyl protective coating to prevent scratching the WC pan. The auger is connected to a crank handle at the other end of the flexible rod. The flexible rod is pushed into the toilet pan until the auger locates the blockage. By turning the handle the auger grips the blockage. By pushing and pulling the flexible rod, the blockage is either forced forward or pulled clear. After the blockage has been cleared clean the WC auger with disinfectant.
To clear blockages in small diameter pipes a drain auger can be used. This tool is similar to the WC auger but much longer. Drain augers can vary in length but usually range from about 3m (10ft) to 7.6m (25ft). Once again the auger is pushed down the pipe until it comes into contact with the blockage. The handle is then fitted in position and turned. By pushing and pulling the flexible rod, the blockage is either forced forward or pulled clear. After the blockage has been cleared clean the drain auger with disinfectant.
A set of drain rods is made up of a number of 1m (3ft 3in) lengths that have threaded brass connectors at both ends enabling them to be screwed together. The rods are made of polypropylene. Each set will have a selection of heads for unblocking different types of debris:
- A100mm (4in) rubber plunger
- A double worm corkscrew fitting
- A hinged scraper for clearing open channels in inspection chambers
After the blockage has been cleared clean the drain rods with disinfectant.
A small hexagonal length of steel used to remove the blanking plugs in radiators. One end of the spanner may be square to fit plugs of that shape.
This is a small but essential tool for bleeding air from the central heating system.
Also known as a tap spanner, the cranked spanner is doubled-ended with cranked jaws. It is used in confined spaces like under a bath or washbasin where an ordinary spanner would have insufficient turning space. A cranked spanner’s shaft can be held vertically while its jaws grip the nut horizontally.
Immersion heater spanner
This is a large hexagonal spanner designed just for the purpose of removing and fitting the electric element of an immersion heater. Immersion heater spanners can be hired.
These pliers have longer handles than conventional pliers and adjustable jaws allowing them to grip pipes, valves etc in a wide range of sizes. If gripping chrome fittings, ensure the slip-joint pliers have smooth jaws.
The washer or valve seat is the part of the tap that the washer closes on to stop the water flowing up and out of the tap. If the seat is damaged, the water pressure forces water past the washer causing the tap to drip. A reseating tool grinds away any unevenness on the seat to produce a watertight seal. Reseating tools are available with a selection of hardened steel cutters in different sizes.
A pipe bending spring is used to bend copper pipe with a diameter of 15mm or less. The spring allows the pipe to be bent without it buckling.
- Apply petroleum jelly to the spring before inserting it into the pipe.
- Insert the spring into the pipe.
- Gently bend the pipe over your knee until you have achieved the required angle.
- Bend the pipe just a little more and carefully bend it back again. This will free the spring, making it easier to remove.
- Push the blade of a screwdriver through the loop at the end of the spring and twist the spring to reduce its diameter. This makes it easier to pull the spring from the pipe.
Although most pipe springs are inserted into the copper pipe, some are designed to fit over the pipe.
If you need to bend a pipe with a diameter larger than 15mm, then a tool called a pipe bender will be required. A pipe bender has two fixed curved formers designed to bend the pipe while it supports the walls of the pipe at the same time. The pipe bender has a straight guide block or former, which is placed between the pipe and a steel roller on a moveable handle. By pushing the handles together the pipe bends around the curved former.
Metal pipe cutter
In addition to the hacksaw there are specific pipe cutting tools available. A metal pipe cutter is also known as a pipe slice and it will cut pipes made from copper, brass and aluminium. They are designed with adjustable jaws fitted with a small cutting wheel.
- Tighten the cutter so the pipe is gripped in its jaws.
- Carefully rotate the pipe cutter so the cutting wheel scores around the circumference of the pipe.
- Tighten the cutter a fraction more and carefully rotate the cutter again.
Generally it takes three rotations of the pipe cutter to cut through the pipe.
Plastic pipe cutter
These pipe cutters have a straight blade within clamp-like jaws, which will cut straight through the pipe.
It is important to remember that after you have cut metal or plastic pipes, the cut ends must be filed smooth to remove any burrs from the edges.
A gas blowtorch is used to join two lengths of pipe together using a jointing compound or flux. Always let the flame of the blowtorch heat up before you commence work. The flame should always be applied evenly to the pipe. When not in use a blowtorch should always be stored standing upright. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a blowtorch.
This is a heat resistant mat used to protect surrounding surfaces when a blowtorch is being used.
A small pipe-cutting tool that is excellent for cutting copper pipes in confined spaces. Not suitable for cutting stainless steel pipes. When the pipe slice is fitted around the pipe and rotated a blade makes an even cut.