Specialized Plumbing Tools

If you own your own home you've more than likely had to work on your plumbing system at some point. Whether it was fixing a broken pipe or completing a bathroom remodel, there's no doubt that you needed some additional tools beyond the ones in the basic kit your significant other bought you at home renovation store for Christmas. Whatever the fix was, you were probably able to read some instructional articles, watch some DIY YouTube videos and rig up some tools when you were supposed to use something else to get the project done. Even though this might have worked the first time, using the wrong tools can be dangerous and if you're not careful you might end up compounding the problem.

If you're insistent on fixing plumbing problems yourself, we've created a list of plumbing tools that you might need beyond a basic plunger and a set of allen wrenches. Understanding how these tools work and what they are specifically used for will go a long way in helping you solve your plumbing problems in safe and cost-efficient manner.

Spud Wrenches

Adjustable internal spud wrench
Adjustable Internal Spud Wrench

Judging by their appearances, some spud wrenches look just like any other pipe wrench. Their purposes are much more specific, however. Some spud wrenches have smooth flat jaws. Another type is called an internal spud wrench, which has an adjustable jaw spread that grasps from inside the spud. Still others are very specific to the task, like the Sloan flush valve spud wrench.

Flat jawed spud wrenches are designed to loosen or tighten the nut on the section of pipe on older model toilets that connects the toilet bowl to the reservoir tank, without marring the finish. If you have a toilet that isn't a late model and this section of pipe cracks or springs a leak, you're going to need a spud wrench to fix the issue before it causes serious damage. They are also useful on exposed chrome parts, such as the flush valve cover. Internal spud wrenches are used to remove the brass spud from toilets and urinals in combination with the flat jawed spud wrench, holding the spud secure while loosening the spud nut.

Pipe Reamer (aka Deburring Tool)

If you're going to be working with any type of pipe, a pipe reamer is a must‐have tool. A pipe reamer's job is to remove burrs from metal pipe that has been cut or had holes drilled in it. Manual pipe reamers come with a T‐shape handle and fancier options can be attached a drill making your cuts smooth and cleanup easier.

Basin Wrench

Telescoping basin wrench
Telescoping Basin Wrench

Whenever you're working on a plumbing project, chances are you'll find yourself in tight quarters. A basin wrench, sometimes called a sink wrench, is designed to make reaching into small spaces and loosening or tightening hard‐to‐reach bolts and nuts easier. Most basin wrenches are telescopic, meaning that their lengths can be adjusted to fit a variety of difficult situations where a regular wrench simply won't do the job.

Strap Wrench

Strap wrenches comes in a variety of styles but fundamentally they all function in the same manner. The strap, made of rubber or woven nylon in most cases, is connected to a manual wrench handle and is used to tighten around objects that you want to loosen. The main advantage of strap wrenches is that they give you extra torque making the loosening of sticky nuts, bolts or fasteners less strenuous, while protecting the material or finish from being damaged.

Pipe Extractors (aka Easy Out or Internal Pipe Wrench)

Complete set of internal pipe wrenches
Cam Style Pipe Extractor Set

If you ever find yourself with a broken pipe, you're going to need a pipe extractor. Made of steel, pipe extractors are designed to remove a piece of intact pipe from one that is broken without having to recut or rethread the intact pipe. There are many different styles, such as: spiral design, internal nipple wrench, and cam style.

Available for purchase individually or in sets that work with different pipe sizes, pipe extractors have two distinct sides — a pipe side and a tool side. The pipe side is inserted into the broken pipe; once in place, the notches on the pipe end grab against the inside walls of the broken pipe and the two pieces can be separated with a twisting motion.

Pipe Cutter

Anytime you're having issues with your plumbing system, you're going to be dealing with pipes. Whether your pipes are made of plastic or steel, a pipe cutter is one of the most important tools to have. While you might be tempted to cut pipe with a handsaw, doing so can leave you with pipe cuts that are uneven and messy. Making the minimal investment in a pipe cutter (metal or plastic) alleviates this hassle and ensures that the cuts you make are clean and easy to work with. Before you go buy any old pipe cutter though, make sure it is sized for the pipe you're going to be working with.

Pipe Threader

Drophead manual pipe threader
Pipe Threading Drophead

If you're going to be putting pieces of pipe together with a coupling or connector, a pipe threader will make your job a lot easier. As the name would imply, pipe threaders cut threads into the end of metal pipes so that they can be screwed together by hand. If you're on a budget, you might want to consider purchasing a manual pipe threader that is used by hand in a ratcheting motion. Conversely, if you're going to be threading a large amount of pipe, the investment in a motorized unit will save you considerable time and a lot of work. Before you put your pipe threader to use, make sure the settings are compatible with the depth and thread profile for the pipe you're working with.

Final Thoughts

More than any other type of home project, plumbing work calls for specialized tools that often serve a singular purpose. Even if you consider yourself handy with plumbing projects, there is much more involved than doing some research on the internet and watching how‐to videos. You're going to need the proper tools for the job. Cutting corners and making use of what you have lying around your shop or garage might be tempting, but doing so often leads to only a temporary fix that can cause more serious problems down the road. If you're dead set on fixing plumbing problems yourself, make sure you do the necessary research and have the proper tools for the job.


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