Plumbers tend to be technically inclined and good with their hands, but they also know when and how to use the right tools. They must navigate an array of issues, health hazards, and tiny, dank spaces to best serve homeowners with long-lasting plumbing solutions. Below, we take a look at the 21 best tools for plumbers to service the modern homeowner.
The Plumbing Tools List
First, a quick look at the list of the 21 best tools for plumbers. There are more details on each below.
1. Pipe wrench
2. Basin wrench
3. Adjustable wrench
4. Faucet key
6. Tube and plastic pipe cutters
7. Plumber’s torch
8. Thread sealing tape
10. Press fitting systems
12. Hand Auger
13. Snake Machine
16. Heat shields/pads
17. PEX pipe expander & fittings
19. Stubby screwdriver
21. Plumbing business software
Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at each tool, and why they belong on your plumbing tools list.
No tool is more associated with plumbing than the mighty wrench, and no plumbing tools list would be complete without it! There's no single all-purpose wrench, however, so prepared plumbers usually bring several to a job site.
1. Pipe Wrench
The pipe wrench serves as a plumber’s largest wrench. Plumbers use these heavy tools to tighten and loosen nuts and fittings on pipework. They typically use two of these wrenches together—one to hold a pipe in place and the other to rotate the nut or fitting in the appropriate direction. Pipe wrenches come in various lengths, and prepared plumbers typically work with an entire set of these tools.
2. Basin Wrench
The basin wrench is a T-shaped tool plumbers use specifically to work on faucets. The clamp-like mechanism on one end of these wrenches allow plumbers to reach into narrow spaces and loosen or tighten the nuts that keep our faucets working (and not leaking). Any conversation about the best tools for plumbers must include this wrench.
3. Adjustable Wrench
The adjustable wrench tightens and loosens hexagonal nuts and fittings on pipes. These wrenches come in a variety of sizes, but plumbers most often have the 6- and 10-inch versions on hand for the next job.
4. Faucet Key
Not a traditional wrench per se, but a critical part of any plumbing tools list. Faucet keys are small, X-shaped tools designed to open and close spigots and sillcocks. There are versatile models on the market for dealing with different stem fittings—1/4", 9/32", 5/16", and so on.
If you work as a plumber, pipes appear prominently on your plumbing tools list. Modern plumbers use a variety of tools and techniques to repair, alter, replace, and install piping in various (and usually tight) spaces around the home.
You likely associate saws with carpenters, but plumbers carry a hacksaw to cut through a variety of hardware, including pipes, nuts, bolts, and screws. This is tough work and plumbers need to tightly secure their blades (and keep spare blades back in the truck).
6. Tube and Plastic Pipe Cutters
If you're a trade professional who regularly deals with copper or plastic piping (and you probably deal with both frequently), you know you’ll eventually need to remove, replace, and resize them. There are an array of handheld tube and plastic pipe cutters on the market, so novice and veteran plumbers alike can choose which models work best for them.
7. Plumber's Torch
Many plumbers seal copper piping by soldering it. You need heat to solder. Plumber's torches are small, handheld tools that allow plumbers to apply intense heat in precise areas, soldering and sealing new piping for installs and replacements. They’re a must-have for any plumbing tools list.
8. Thread Sealing Tape
Also known as "plumber's tape," plumbers use this tape to patch or prevent possible leaks at threaded joint connections in piping. Quality thread sealing tape is resistant to high and low temperatures. It also stretches for better, form-fitting coverage, and never dries out.
Plumbers use pliers, like wrenches, every day. These smaller tools are among the best tools for plumbers because they allow professionals to loosen and tighten nuts and bolts that are too small for a wrench to grip. They also fit easily in a plumber’s hand to squeeze into tight spaces where a wrench won't fit.
10. Press Fitting Systems
Connecting pipe securely is critical to any plumbing project’s success. Iron Pipe Size (IPS) press fitting systems physically press a connection onto a pipe, producing an impermeable connection or seal.
They save plumbers time and money in the long run, because plumbers can make connections with them in less time than it takes to weld or solder the pipes.
Brandon Mageno, who owns Big B’s Plumbing in Murrieta, Calif., says his team started using ProPress, a waterline IPS version for gas lines.
Sometimes the problem isn't the pipe, it's what's inside. Good plumbers know their way around a stubborn clog and which tools they need to keep a homeowner's plumbing uncongested and running smoothly.
“We try to have a pretty good variety of sewer machines,” says Chris Gist, owner of NWFL Mechanical in Gulf Breeze, Fla. “We try to have a couple of options on each line for our plumbers when we send them out.”
Most homeowners own plungers, but plumbers should come equipped with them, too. Trade professionals should be ready with heavy-duty flange and cup plungers, which produce significantly more suction than the average consumer plunger.
12. Hand Auger
A hand auger is a circular, handheld device that allows plumbers to drive a cable deep down a drain in order to break apart and clear clogs (via a hand crank). Hand-auger technology has come a long way over the years and there are various models and capabilities on the market for plumbing professionals to consider as part of their plumbing tools list.
13. Snake Machine
A snake machine is essentially a larger, motorized version of the hand auger. When clogs are especially deep or difficult to displace, snake machines usually have the muscle to remedy the situation.
Plumbing isn't usually associated with danger, but experienced plumbers know there are ways to get hurt on the job. Luckily, a number of different tools help to protect plumbing professionals and dramatically lower the chances of an accident. Any discussion about the best tools for plumbers should include these items.
Being a plumber means closely examining leaks, soldering, and other things that can be potentially dangerous to one's eyes. A good plumber is also a safe one. They always arrive at the scene with appropriate eyewear.
Plumbers are exposed to a lot of things that no one wants to touch with their bare hands. There are various types of heavy duty gloves on the market that can protect a plumber's hands, allow them to grip slippery items more easily, and offer a range of other benefits.
16. Heat Shields/Pads
If soldering is a regular part of your day-to-day, then it's critical to use the proper safety equipment to protect yourself and the homeowner. Complete your plumbing tools list with reliable heat shields and pads. They help to protect plumbers and the surrounding environment from heat damage or fire when soldering is necessary.
From redesigned hardware to emerging technologies that are changing the face of the plumbing industry, there are always new tools and solutions for plumbing pros to consider when looking to up their game and better their business.
17. PEX Pipe Expander & Fittings
PEX piping is one of plumbing's latest innovations. It’s resilient, flexible plastic piping offering unprecedented convenience and reliability. A PEX expander is a drill-like tool that widens the mouth of the pipe so you can insert a metal fitting. Because PEX piping retains its original shape, the mouth closes in on the fitting, creating a perfect seal for water to pass through.
Crimp tools are critical in PEX-related plumbing, but plumbers use them with other types of piping as well. Crimping is joining multiple pieces of metal or other material by deforming one or both of them to hold the other.
Be discriminating when purchasing crimpers for PEX, says Gist, the owner of NWFL Mechanical.
“The difference between buying the expensive ones and buying the cheap ones is pretty substantial,” he says. Gist recommends Milwaukee brand crimpers.
19. Stubby screwdriver
It might sound basic compared to other tools, but plumbers should consider the stubby screwdriver as a must-have on any plumbing tools list. It could be a job-saver when a plumber needs to tighten or loosen a screw in a hard-to-reach place inaccessible to a normal or electric screwdriver.
Like traditional screwdrivers, plumbers can purchase stubby screwdrivers with multiple flathead or Phillips bits.
Plumbers used to view borescopes as top-of-the-line technology in the plumbing trade, but now most plumbers carry them. These small cameras tethered by a long, flexible cable are meant to be inserted far down into drains and sewer lines to give professionals a better look at the condition of the piping and whatever may be obstructing it. Smaller plumbing outfits can now use prosumer models that connect directly to a smartphone for fast, convenient application.
Fewer trade professionals rely on a clipboard and pen-and-paper to work out estimates and scribble out invoices. Instead, they're armed with a vibrant digital tablet to help them better sell their products and services to homeowners, streamline paperwork, reduce mistakes, and capture payments on the spot.
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