8 Tools Every DIY Plumber Needs

Water Pump Pliers

Whether you call them Channellock, tongue and groove pliers, or water pump pliers... you're gonna need them. Probably the most widely used tool in the plumber's toolbox, these pliers have long handles and easily adjustable jaws that lock in place at the press of a button. Their wide range of opening sizes and ability to grip nearly any shape makes them one of the most versatile plumber's tools, used to tighten or loosen pretty much anything. Having a pair of these pliers is a good idea: use one to stabilize the pipe, the other to loosen/tighten. The 10" size should take care of most residential needs, but you'd be well served to have a range of sizes.

Pipe Wrench

Essentially your standard adjustable wrench on steroids, the pipe wrench is the iconic tool of the trade. While it is true that many of the pipe wrench's traditional duties have been taken over by water pump pliers (which are easier to use), pipe wrenches still have their place, especially when dealing with softer pipes (like iron and galvanized steel) and rounded fittings (they're not recommended for nuts or square or hex fittings). You'll again want at least two of these (one to stabilize, one to turn) - anything between 8-12" should suffice for the home. Cast iron wrenches are superior, but you'll be fine using a less expensive aluminum version.

Basin Wrench

This tool is specially designed for use with the mounting nuts that hold faucets in sinks. It's usually a pretty tight fit behind the underside of the sink and between the wall, where faucets are typically installed. Trying to use a standard wrench or pliers to tighten/remove a faucet nut is usually an exercise in futility and frustration. A basin wrench changes all that: a long handle (make sure yours is telescoping for the greatest versatility) reaches up past the sink, where a unique set of jaws grasps the faucet mounting nut. A bar at the bottom end of the handle turns the wrench. Indispensable when dealing with faucets, you're likely to find even more applications for this odd-looking tool.

Strap Wrench

When you need to tighten or loosen something without damaging the finish, this is the tool you want. These adjustable, multi-purpose "wrenches" use the tension of a rubber or polyester strap to grip and turn, leaving the underlying material unharmed. Their unique design and operation often allows them to work in odd places that are inaccessible with standard wrenches or pliers. This is a lesser-known tool among DIYers, but one you'll never regret having.

Drain Auger ("Drain Snake")

It would be nice if a plunger or vinegar and baking soda were able to clear every drain clog, but that just isn't the world we live in. When the drain line of your tub or sink becomes too much for "easy" methods to handle, a good auger will likely save the day. Augers consist of a flexible steel cable and a drum with a hand crank (some models can be connected to a drill for powered "snaking"). The crank pushes the cable into the drain, where its coiled head breaks up and grabs the clogging material (the same principle is at work in the much larger, high-powered drain cleaning machines plumbers use for severe clogs and tree roots). For the greatest versatility and value, look for a hand snake with a power drill option and a 25-foot cable.

Closet Auger ("Toilet Snake")

A snake designed specifically for toilets ("water closets"), this auger features a rubber or vinyl sleeve around the cable, preventing the steel from scratching and damaging the interior toilet bowl. Because most toilet clogs occur in the trap or the various bends leading to the drain line, these snakes are typically much shorter than their tub/sink counterparts - you should be fine with a 3-foot cable.

Pipe/Tubing Cutter (and/or Pipe Shears)

It's important to cut pipes cleanly and smoothly; rough, jagged cuts can lead to bad joints, pipe damage, and leaks down the road. Depending on the makeup of your plumbing system, one or both of these cutting tools could have a spot in your toolbox. Cutters use rotary blades to evenly cut copper pipe and tubing - look for C-shaped "mini cutters" that can be used on pipes up to 1" (even when space around the pipe is limited). Pipe shears are used to cleanly cut plastic pipes: ratcheted versions can be used to cut hard PVC and CPVC, while basic scissor versions are used for softer materials like flexible PVC and PEX.

Hacksaw

When it can't be cut (or reached) with shears or cutters, a hacksaw will often do the trick. A mini hacksaw (6" is a popular size) is a multi-purpose must-have for any DIYer, and can allow you to cut in places inaccessible to larger cutting tools (in extremely cramped spaces, you can even wrap the end of a loose hacksaw blade and work it with your fingers). Hacksaws can cut wood, steel, brass, and plastic, making them one of the most versatile cutting tools around. You'll be glad to have one handy when dealing with rusted screws, nuts, and bolts!

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