Plumbing Tools That Will Make Your Life Easier

The contents of the plumber's toolbox are fairly standard: various sizes of wrenches, pliers, augers, pipe cutters, soldering torch, solder, measuring tape, plunger, safety equipment — to name a few. Here are a few more tools to keep in mind and get into your toolbox along with a few tips on best practices for how to use them. These can save you time and effort in the long run.

Compression Sleeve Puller

A compression sleeve puller is a specialty tool used to remove compression supply stops from copper pipe. It looks somewhat like a gear puller — or even a corkscrew — but it has a specific plumbing use.

One typical example is removing the shut‐off valve under a sink. This specialty tool will allow you to remove the old valve easily without damaging the copper pipe.

To use this tool:

  1. Be sure the main water supply is turned off before working on the valve. The building should be drained down and any residual water left in the branch that goes to the stop must be captured using a sponge, a towel, or a small container.
  2. Turn the sink faucet on to release any pressure in the line. After the pressure is released, remove the flexible hose that connects the shut‐off valve to the sink.
  3. Remove the stop from the compression nut using two adjustable wrenches by holding the stop tight and backing off the compression nut.
  4. To remove the compression nut and sleeve (sometimes referred to as brass ferrule or brass compression ring), insert the bushing of the tool into the pipe and place the nut puller (collar) behind the nut, then turn the handle clockwise until the nut and sleeve clears the end of the pipe.
  5. Examine the pipe to ensure a good joint if a new compression stop is to be installed. If the pipe is damaged, a new stop will not seal. At this time, the pipe may also be prepared for installation of a sweat stop.

When installing a compression stop, be sure to follow the compression stop's manufacturer's directions regarding specific steps and the proper amount of torque that should be applied to the compression nut to ensure a water‐tight joint.

Exercise care with the choice of tools in order not to mar the finish of the stop.

A word of caution: If you come across a compression stop attached to a CPVC pipe, it's almost certain it was installed by someone with little knowledge of plumbing. Compression stops should never be used on CPVC, as the material is susceptible to breaking with a compression stop. If the pipe breaks, it could cause mold or wood‐rot damage if the leak is small, or — worst case — flood the house when the water is back on. If you come across a compression stop on CPVC, handle with care and replace with the proper fitting.

Quick Sweat Water Stopper

This tool is especially handy for temporarily stopping the flow of water when performing a minor repair so the pipes can be soldered. It is used for repairs on copper (M, L, and K types) pipe.

It has a pistol‐type handle made of non‐corrosive polypropylene that fits cables ranging from 1/2" to 2" — and you can purchase the handle and cables separately or in an all‐in‐one kit.

To use the quick sweat water stopper:

  1. Insert the cable into the forward end of the pistol grip. Push the assembly completely into the grip.
  2. Pull the rear stop down into the depression.
  3. Slide the components to be soldered onto the cable.
  4. Insert the expansion end of the cable into the existing copper or plastic line. (Note: Make sure the expansion seal is at least 6" from the solder joint.) Squeeze the pistol grip until the handle latches.
  5. Solder the components. When finished, unlatch by sliding the handle to one side and pulling the cable from the pipe.

A word of caution: Pressure buildup may dislodge the plug. Be sure not to position yourself directly in front of the pipe where the water stopper is being inserted.

PVC Fitting Saver

The PVC fitting saver — true to its name — saves time, money, and aggravation when a PVC pipe breaks off inside a fitting.

Rather than replacing an entire section of pipe, the fitting saver allows you to bore out broken plastic pipe from glue fittings so you can reuse the fitting.

The tool can be used on ABS DWV, PVC DWV, PVC Pressure, CPVC (IPS), 1/2" and 3/4" (CTS) CPVC, and rigid PVC electrical conduit. It repairs schedule 40 and schedule 80; however, for class 200 thicknesses of pipe, use the RamBit economy fitting saving tool.

The tool is similar to a drill bit. In fact, it is designed to fit a standard drill.

To use the PVC fitting saver:

  1. Cut the pipe flush with the top of the fitting.
  2. Insert the fitting saver "drill bit" into the drill chuck. The tool has a round disk that rides inside the pipe, keeping the cutting blades centered so only the pipe material (not the socket) will be removed.
  3. Push the tool until you get to the bottom of the socket, then pull back out.
  4. Remove any debris that made its way into the pipe during the boring process.
  5. At this point, the fitting is ready to be primed and glued again.

This tool is especially helpful for remodelers, pool service people, and sprinkler service technicians. For example, consider a remodel in which a building is being completely repiped and old pipes must be capped off. You can cut the pipe flush with the floor or wall, then use the fitting saver to drill the pipe so it's recessed into the floor or wall, at which point you can plug it and concrete or plaster over the area.

You may find the hardest part about using this tool is finding it when you need it!

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