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The Essential Plumbing Tools List: 35 Different Types & Their Uses

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Whether you’re a professional plumber or just a homeowner looking to DIY some pipes, there are a few different tools that are necessary to have in your toolbox. Many of these tools are necessary for most plumbing jobs, while others are important to work effectively.

You don’t have to purchase all of these tools at once, but you will need to build up your toolbox over time. For those looking to get started, this is the list to look at.

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Wrenches

When you’re tightening or removing nuts and bolts in the plumbing, you’ll need all sorts of wrenches. In total, there are about four different wrenches you need to do your job effectively. Most of these wrenches can be found in a variety of different sizes, so you’ll likely want to invest in sets of each type of wrench.

If you’re on a strict budget, you may be able to get away with just buying wrenches of standard sizes. However, if you can afford it at all, we highly recommend buying sets.

1. Pipe Wrench

Heavy-Duty Straight Pipe Wrench

Every plumber needs a pipe wrench, even if you just do the occasional DIY job. This is the most massive wrench a plumber probably needs. They are used to tighten and loosen the nuts that hold pipes together. If you’re going to work on pipes, you need to have this wrench.

These tools come in various lengths. Most experienced plumbers work with a whole set of these tools – they’re that important. However, if you’re just getting started, you can probably get away with just one for the time being.


2. Basin Wrench

TEKTON 11 Inch Basin Wrench

This type of wrench is specially designed for working on faucets. They are T-shaped and have a clamp mechanism that helps them reach into narrow spaces to tighten hard-to-reach nuts and bolts that are often found on faucet plumbing.

If you plan on working on faucets at all, you need this wrench. It is not a tool you can live without.


3. Adjustable Wrench

WORKPRO 4-piece Adjustable Wrench Set

An adjustable wrench is useful for a wide variety of tasks. If one of the other wrenches isn’t suitable for the job, an adjustable wrench will likely work. It works best for hexagonal nuts, which are commonly found on pipes of all sorts.

Most plumbers have various sizes of adjustable wrenches to ensure they can always loosen the wrench they need to. Even for beginners, we recommend picking up various sizes, just in case.


4. Faucet Key

Cobra Products PST154 4-Way Sillcock Key

This isn’t technically a wrench, but it is a necessary part of any plumber’s toolbox. These small tools are designed to open and close spigots and sillcocks. If you want to be a serious plumber, you’re going to need to work on spigots at some point. There are different tools for dealing with different stem fittings, so you may want to invest in a set of them just in case.


5. Garbage Disposal Wrench

In Sink Erator Division 4577 Garbage Disposer Wrench

This wrench is used explicitly for garbage disposals. If you have a garbage disposal, you should have one of these on hand just in case. It can turn the shredder and help clear clogs. This inexpensive tool can prevent you from needing to call a plumber to your house, saving you plenty of money in the long-run.


6. Shower Valve Socket Wrench

Cobra Products PST141 Shower Valve Socket Wrench Set

This wrench is used for installing and removing shower valves, tub fittings, and nuts. If you work on showers, you need this tool. The average homeowner will probably have a problem with their shower at some point, so it is always a good idea to have this simple wrench on hand. Without one, you really can’t work on showers at all.


7. Strainer Locknut Wrench

General Tools 186 Strainer Locknut Wrench

These special wrenches are designed for strainer locknuts. You really can’t get them off without one – not easily anyway. Because of this, every plumber needs one of these wrenches in their toolbox.

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Pipe Work

As a plumber, you’ll spend most of your time working on pipes. To do this effectively, you’ll need quite a few different tools. Mostly, these tools will be used to cut pipes and create seals – two things you need to be able to do to work with pipes effectively.

8. Hacksaw

CRAFTSMAN Hacksaw

Plumbers typically work with pipes. A hacksaw is necessary for cutting these pipes. Without them, you may not be able to ultimately complete projects. They can also be used to cut through things like nuts and bolts. If you’re doing any sort of plumbing work, you need a hacksaw.

You should need to keep multiple blades nearby, just in case your primary blade breaks. This is tough work, after all.


9. Plastic Pipe Cutters

Zantle Ratchet-type Tube and Pipe Cutter

Today, many pipes are made out of plastic. You’ll need a plastic pipe cutter to work on plastic pipes, which you’re going to run into a lot, whether you’re a professional or a home DIYer. Luckily, these cutters aren’t expensive, so you should have no problem stocking them in your toolbox.


10. Plumber’s Torch

BLUEFIRE BTS-8088 Torch

For those who work with copper pipes, a torch made for soldering them is necessary. Otherwise, you won’t be able to complete your project effectively. These small, handheld tools can quickly solder pipes in tight places, where a standard torch won’t reach. They also allow you to solder more carefully and precisely, which is essential in work like this.


11. Thread Sealing Tape

SUPPLY GIANT I33-5 811-5 PTFE Thread Seal Tape

The tape is used to carefully seal small leaks or prevent possible leaks from occurring, to begin with. They can be used at a threaded joint connection to make them stronger and prevent possible leaks there as well. There is a lot of different sealing tape available, but the high-quality tape is necessary. If you’re going to splurge anywhere, splurge on this.

High-quality thread sealing tape is resistant to temperature changes, can stretch to form better seals, and never dries out. The low-quality tape is likely to wear down faster and needs replacing more often.


 12. Pliers

IRWIN VISE-GRIP Long Nose Pliers

You need pliers to work on pipes. You will be using them every day, just like wrenches. You should choose a pair of slammer pliers since you’re likely to be working in tight places. These are great for bolts and nuts that are too far for your wrenches to reach.

Get the smallest pliers you can, since you’ll mostly be using these to fit into tight places.


13. Press Fitting System

PureSec 2020 Stem Elbow Connector

You aren’t much of a plumber if you can’t connect pipes. These fitting systems are used to physically press two pipes together, creating a seal that water won’t escape from. There are other ways to seal pipes, but this is the best way to do it cheaply.

You may have to spend a bit of money upfront to pay for one of these press-fitting systems, but it is worth it.


14. Acid Flux Brush

Pro Grade - Acid Flux Brushes

Whenever you’re soldering, you need this brush to apply the proper paste to copper pipes. This is a simple tool, but it is essential anytime you want to solder a copper pipe. There is no need to spend much on this tool. Just pick up whatever option you find.


15. Combination Tool

C.S. Osborne & Co. Combination Tool

At some point, you’re going to need to clean pipes. If you have a combination tool, this job is much easier. Plus, it can prevent you from needing to change out pipes as often, which can save you money in the long-run.

While this isn’t a “must-have” tool, it is incredibly nice to have. We recommend it to all professionals and homeowners who tend to do their plumbing if you want to handle every job effectively.


16. Deburring Tool

AFA Tooling Deburring Tool with a Blade

Often, you’ll need to remove burrs from pipes. Deburring tools make this much faster, easier, and safer. They are cheap as well. You can get a whole set for around $15. Most of them are pretty high-quality as well and will last for a long time. Just bite the built on these and purchase a set. You’ll thank yourself later.


17. Reaming Tools

Klein Tools 85191 Screwdriver : Conduit Reamer

This simple tool enlarges pipe holes and openings. You’ll need to do this at some point, though most projects will not require it. It is always best to have this tool on standby just in case you need it. However, you can wait to purchase this tool if you’re on a strict budget. They aren’t expensive, though, so you won’t be saving much money.


18. Metal File

REXBETI 16Pcs Premium Grade File Set

After cutting, you’ll need to smooth the edges of the pipe. Metal files are the quickest and easiest way to do this. We recommend them for anyone who might be cutting pipes, including homeowners who just might use them occasionally.


19. Plumbing Brushes

Copper Pipe Cleaner a 4-In-1 Plumber Brush

These small brushes are for cleaning the inside of pipes. They are usually small, longer brushes with metal bristles. They are perfect for cleaning the inside of pipes, which you’ll probably be doing quite often. These simple tools can make your life a lot easier, so we highly recommend them.


20. Tube Benders

Imperial Tool 370FH Triple Head 180 Degree Tube Bender

At some point, you’ll need to bend plastic and copper pipes into new shapes. This is the whole point of tube benders, and they do their job very well. You may be able to put off buying these until you need to purchase pipes. However, if you have the extra cash, having tube benders handy can be extremely helpful.

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Clearing Clogs

Clearing clogs is another standard, necessary part of a plumber’s job. If you are a homeowner, you’ll probably want to learn how to clear clogs yourself. It will save you quite a bit of money in the long run, since you won’t have to call a plumber every time a stubborn clog develops.

You’ll need a few different tools to clear the most stubborn clogs quickly. It’s a good idea to have them on hand. You don’t want to find half your home’s plumbing backed up and not have the tool you need.

21. Plungers

Neiko 60166A Toilet Plunger

Plungers are an essential tool used to clear clogs. Every homeowner should own one of these, even if you aren’t planning on doing much work on your pipes. We recommend a heavy-duty flange and a cup plunger, which produce more suction than your average plunger. Many will recommend these only for trade professionals, but we recommend them for all homeowners.

Plungers will be able to get rid of most clogs quite quickly. This should be your first step to clearing any sort of clog. If a plunger doesn’t work, you’ll need to move on to more powerful tools.


22. Hand Auger

Seymour 21306 AU-S6 Iwan Auger

These circular, handheld devices allow plumbers to drive a cable through a pipe. This hopefully breaks up stubborn clogs, helping other tools to clear it away completely. Over the past few years, these tools have gotten even more powerful. Now, they can sometimes even clear clogs away by themselves.

There are many different models on the market with different capabilities. Choose the one that works best for your situation. While this isn’t necessarily a “must-have” tool. It can be handy for times when you need to clear away tough clogs.


23. Snake Machine

RIDGID 52363 K-400 Drum Snake Machine

These are newer machines. They are larger, motorized versions of the hand auger. They’re more comfortable to use than a hand auger and can be used for tough clogs. They have quite a bit more power than a hand auger.

You probably don’t need this machine and a hand auger if you’re a homeowner. However, a professional might need both for different situations. Our recommendation is to purchase a snake machine if you have the money, and a hand auger if you don’t typically deal with clogs.

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Safety Equipment

Plumbing usually isn’t seen as a dangerous profession. However, you still need some essential safety equipment. You are often working with hot equipment like blowtorches, after all. Below, you’ll find some necessary safety equipment you’ll need for even the most straightforward plumbing jobs.

24. Goggles

Yuntuo Safety Goggles

Many things can potentially damage your eyes when you’re a plumber. Contaminated water, bits of metal, and sparks can all damage your eyes while you’re closely examining pipes and leaks. You should always wear goggles when doing any plumbing work.


25. Gloves

General Tools 186 Strainer Locknut Wrench

You should also have a set of nice gloves that you work at all times. You’ll probably be touching a lot of things that shouldn’t be touched with your bare hands. Heavy-duty gloves are necessary because of this.

Gloves will also protect your hand from potentially sharp metal.


26. Heat Shields

Reflective White Foam Insulation Heat Shield

If you’re soldering, you will need a heat shield to stay safe. You’ll need them to protect yourself and the surrounding area from the heat of the torch. It also prevents unnecessary fires, which can occur when flammable material gets too hot near the soldering torch. As you might imagine, this is a significant safety hazard.

You should invest in some reliable heat shields to ensure that the heat doesn’t harm the surrounding environment through the shields. This is a situation where you often get what you pay for, so you mustn’t try to cut corners by purchasing cheaper heat shields.

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Other Essential Tools and Items

There are some other tools you might want to consider for your toolbox as well. Many of these are not essential. You could probably do most basic plumbing jobs without them. However, if you have the extra money and space, they can make your job much easier.

27. PEX Pipe Expander & Fittings

IBOSAD Manual PEX Pipe Expander Tool Kit

This is a unique pipe system that is much easier to work with than traditional pipes. It is flexible and can be expanded with a drill-like tool to widen the mouth of the pipe. Then, a metal fitting can be inserted. The pipe retains its shape after being stretched, so it quickly closes around the metal fitting, creating a seal that water won’t pass through.

These pipes are much easier to use than other options.


28. Crimpers

Titan 11477 Ratcheting Wire Terminal Crimper Tool

These crimpers are essential for working with PEX piping of all sorts. Because this sort of piping is getting more and more common, it is essential to have a pair of crimpers in your toolkit just in case. You can also use them on other sorts of piping, such as joining two pieces of metal together. You can also use them to deform the pipes to make one hold the other.

Overall, they’re just a versatile tool to have. In some situations, they may even be necessary to get the job done. If you’re a homeowner, figure out what kind of pipes were used in your home. If PEX pipes were used, you would need a pair of crimpers to work on them appropriately.


29. Stubby Screwdriver

Klein Tools 32561 Multi-Bit Stubby Screwdriver

Plumbers work in tight spaces. Stubby screwdrivers are often necessary to reach screws in hard-to-reach places. Without one of these essential tools, you may be stuck trying to figure out how to get to that tough screw otherwise. Plus, these tools are very inexpensive. There is no reason not to have one.


30. Borescope

DEPSTECH Borescope

For professionals, a borescope is necessary. Homeowners might see this as a frivolous expense, but it can be well worth the money in many situations. This tool is a small camera tethered by a flexible cable. You insert it into drains and sewer lines to get a view of the problem. Many models today connect directly to your smartphone, making them extremely convenient to use.

If you find yourself doing a lot of plumbing work, this tool can make your job much easier. It takes a bit of experience to use one effectively. It just shows you the problem you have to figure out what that problem is exactly and how to fix it. However, if you have the experience to back it up, this tool is a one-of-a-kind project saver.


31. Bucket

Rubbermaid Commercial

You never know when you’ll need to drain water or deal with something you probably don’t want to leave on the floor. A bucket is a tool that is easy to overlook, but it is necessary for lots of plumbing jobs.

For obvious reasons, you should dedicate a bucket to plumbing purposes and keep it nearby just in case.


32. Caulk Gun

Newborn 930-GTD Drip-Free Caulking Gun

Repairing seals around sinks and tubs is essential, and you’ll probably have to do it eventually. When this happens, you’ll need a caulk gun ready to go. These are pretty cheap, and you could likely put off buying one until you need it. However, it is always a good idea to have some on hand in case you need to seal any small hole around the sink or tub.


33. Jab Saw

Klein Tools Drywall Saw

This simple tool is also known as a keyhole saw or drywall saw. You probably won’t need to use these very much as a plumber. However, they can be useful for those rare projects that require one. These are not particularly expensive in the least, so it is probably a good idea to have one on hand just in case.


34. Putty Knife

WORKPRO 4-Piece Putty Knife Set

This is a simple tool. It is used to apply and remove caulk and toilet wax residue. While this tool is very cheap, it is also necessary any time you’re working with putty. It is easy to forget this tool before a project that requires it, so we recommend having one on hand just in case.


35. Pressure Test Gauges

Watts 0950200 DP IWTG Water Pressure Test Gauge

These are used to check for leaks and water pressure problems. They only perform this one, niche job, so they probably won’t be used during every project. However, they are essential when you need to check water pressure, so even the average homeowner should have these on hand.

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Conclusion

While this is not a completely exhaustive list, it will get you out of the majority of plumbing predicaments. It’s not essential to get all these tools immediately, but the majority won’t set you back a lot budget-wise, so see what you can afford when it comes to augmenting your plumbing tool kit. The next time the toilet breaks, you’ll be glad you’ve got them.

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Header image credit: stevepb, Pixabay

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