If you’ve decided to get into DIY to see if you can fix a few problems around the house yourself then sooner or later you’ll need to get into plumbing. This article tells you what tools you can buy for your toolkit that will help you do basic plumbing jobs.
There is a huge number of specialist plumbing tools out there but the intention isn’t to try and train you to be a plumber in the space of 500 words. No, we’ll just identify a few inexpensive tools that can make plumbing problem-solving a little easier. We’ll also assume that you aren’t going to go as far as bending copper pipes and soldering them together either.
Unblocking Sinks and Basins
We’ll start with a plunger. This is very useful for unblocking sinks and bath wastes when they get gunged up. It may not completely clear the blockage though, so it’s worth treating it as an early warning system. If you have to get the plunger out it’s a sure sign that pretty soon you’ll have to get into the waste pipework and sort out a blockage.
Most waste pipework is designed to be taken apart quite easily for this very reason and it will either be push-fit or screw-in. Be wary of using metal jawed adjustable wrenches and spanners on plastic fittings as you can tear them. If push-fit pipes are a bit stubborn then twisting them back and forth should be enough to get them apart.
The only tool that might help out with screw-in fittings is a strap wrench. This will wrap around the knurled edge of a collar and grip it tightly to help undo it. To be honest though a wet tea towel rolled up, wrapped around it and twisted tight will do the job just as well.
Cisterns and Tanks
If you have to replace valves and ballcocks in cisterns and tanks then you ought to be able to manage with the basic toolkit we put together in another article. Just be careful with using adjustable tools on plastic fittings. If you need to pop out and buy some new open ended spanners to fit it’s likely to be cheaper in the long run than chewing up a fitting and having to buy another one.
If you are going to tackle DIY jobs like replacing kitchen or bathroom taps then there are a few special tools that really come in handy. One is the gloriously named tap back nut box spanner which is used for undoing and tightening the nuts that hold taps underneath baths or basins.
It’s a box spanner, as the name suggests, basically a steel tube with a hex socket at each end. The sockets will be a different size at each end and you can get paired sets, giving you a total of four sizes, if you are unsure what size back nut you will encounter. They come with a bar that you insert through lateral holes to turn them.
As these are box spanners they can only be used if the supply pipes aren’t connected. Note that although other box spanners are available, and can be used if you can get the access, specialist plumbing ones are longer than usual so that they can be pushed up behind the back of a basin or bath. Until you have to undo the plumbing for a bath that is nestling tightly up against the bathroom wall you won’t appreciate how handy this is.
To disconnect those supply pipes (after turning the water off of course) you need a basin wrench or, better still, an adjustable basin wrench. These are very long as well but open ended, unlike the box spanners, so they can be passed up alongside the pipes until the union nuts are engaged.
Then you fit the top end of the wrench around the nut and rotate from the bottom. It’s a little tricky to use, in fact sometimes it’s very frustrating, until you can get good purchase on the nut. But it’s a lot easier than trying to do it with no specialist tools at all.
Don’t Forget the PTFE Tape
The final addition to the basic toolkit that will be worth its weight in gold when it comes to plumbing is a roll of PTFE tape. This is a slim white tape that’s Teflon coated and used for sealing threaded joints.
Wrap it around a thread before placing the nut over it. The tape helps the nut slide over the thread then compresses to seal it as it tightens. No DIY plumber should be without it.