Before you go out and buy new plumbing tools, have a look in your toolbox. Many basic DIY toolkits will contain several of the tools (pliers, spanners, wrenches, etc) needed for plumbing jobs. There are, however, several specialist plumbing tools you might need for more advanced tasks. This is particularly true if you are planning to cut or bend pipes.
Having a good set of pliers in your toolkit is essential, but for plumbing jobs you might also need a good set of slip-joint pliers for gripping the larger nuts and connectors on some pipework. A good set of 180mm combination pliers can be useful for pulling split-pins from cisterns, whilst long-nosed pliers a good for gripping the sink outlet grid.
There are several different types of pipe wrench available, but all are designed for gripping larger connector and fixtures found in plumbing systems. A standard pipe wrench (Stillson Wrench) will suffice in most domestic situations, although it is worth getting a couple of different sized wrenches if your budget allows. Wrenches which open to 25mm and 40mm should be able to handle most jobs, and a longer handle will give you greater leverage. Just remember that you might be working in tight spaces when deciding on the length of handle you want.
Tip – When using a Pipe Wrench, always push or pull in the direction of the jaw opening. This will help avoid slipping off the fitting and damaging yourself or the surrounding pipework. If using a pipe wrench on a plastic fitting, you can pad the jaws with cloth to avoid damage.
This specialist tape is wound around the threads of fittings through which water will pass, sealing them and making them watertight. PTFE tape is very cheap and it is certainly worth having some in your toolbox in case you ever need it.
As radiator keys cost so little, it is worth buying a spare or two as they are easily lost. Rad Keys are used to release the small square valves on radiators, allowing you to bleed out any air which can build up when the heating system is not used for a prolonged period.
Tip – If you find that you are forever losing radiator keys, use a short length of string to hang one from a radiator valve in an out-of-the-way location.
A simple plunger should be the first thing you turn to in the event that your sink or bath becomes blocked. You can buy a simple plunger for as little a £1, but you can also buy plungers designed to clean a blocked WC. Another option is a hydrojet plunger which uses a jet of water to clear blockages in sinks and drains.
You can hire sink and WC Augers, but they are relatively cheap to buy and handy to have in your toolkit. An auger is a flexible steel wire, which is fed into a blocked sink, drain or WC and used to dislodge blockages.
This is a wrench specifically designed for loosening and tightening the backnuts of taps. You probably won’t have to use this wrench very often, but when you do need it, it will make removing taps much, much easier.
Immersion Heater Spanner
A large spanner designed for removing and fitting the electrical element of an immersion heater. Can be hired cheaply. This is another plumbing tool which you won’t need very often but is essential for it’s intended task.
Pipe Repair Clamp
This specialised clamp is used to instantly plug a leak in a pipe. The clamp consists of a split collar lined with rubber that you fit over the leak and tighten around the pipe to temporarily stop water escaping. Very useful for stopping a leak whilst keeping the water flowing in the system, meaning that you can take a bit more time working out how to fix the problem permanently.
Pipe Cutting and Repair Tools
If you plan to install any copper pipework yourself, you will need an additional and more specialist set of tools.
A simple and portable machine to help you create smooth bends in copper pipes. The machine consists of a curved former and different sized blocks for bending different sizes of pipe. Handy to have if you will be creating lots of bends. Can be hired quite cheaply.
Pipe Bending Springs
These come in several sizes depending on the size of pipe you are bending and help to support the inside of the pipe while it is being bent. Using Pipe Bending Springs stops the pipe from flattening as it is bent.
A simple tool for cutting copper pipe. A pipe cutter will create a much more accurate cut than a hacksaw and, if you have several cuts to make, is a lot easier on the arm. Consists of a fixed blade and an adjustable grip for different sizes of pipe. Copper pipe cutters and plastic pipe cutters differ, so make sure you have the right type for the pipes you need to cut.
Useful for cleaning up the edges of cut pipes and for removing rust from pipework.
Half-Round Metal File
Another useful tool for cleaning the end of cut copper pipes. The rounded side of the file can be used to clean inside the pipe, whilst the flat face can be used to smooth the outside.
If you are replacing or fitting copper pipes with soldered capillary joints, you will need a blowtorch to heat the solder. You can buy a small blowtorch suitable for DIY for less than £20 from many of the major online DIY tool suppliers .