A Buying Guide for Plumbing Tools

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A Buying Guide for Plumbing Tools

There are jobs for the beginner and there are jobs for the professional. Common plumbing problems, including some common plumbing emergencies, are all actually fairly simple and can be fixed by the resident, with the right tools. And not having to pay plumber's fees for common and simple problems means having money available for big jobs that are better left to the professionals, such as fixing the water heater.

A beginner to home plumbing needs to invest in some tools and could use some help figuring out which tools it really makes sense to buy. After all, who wants to waste time and money buying unnecessary tools? And who wants to risk not having the right tool on hand when it is needed? A professional, on the other hand, already has a wide range of tools, but has to decide which tools to keep most accessible, for easy use on any job at a moment's notice. In either case, knowing what other people in a similar situation have found useful may help.

Putting Together a Plumbing Toolbox

Beginners to plumbing especially should remember that the initial shopping list need not include every single tool that might ever be useful to fix a plumbing problem. Professionals also can try a number of options and take their time deciding which tools they like best. The toolbox can remain a work in progress.

Starting Out with a Plumbing Kit

For a do-it-yourself plumber, which tools to buy comes down to both which are most needed and what the buyer's skillset is. For example, propane blowlamps and associated equipment are very useful for soldering and brazing pipe, and a professional plumber would want to have access to these tools. But a professional plumber has also been trained to use a blowlamp, and somebody without proper training could easily get hurt, start a fire, or simply make a mess of the pipe. Just as important, problems that require the use of a blowlamp are rare, so investing in one just for home use is probably a poor choice financially.

As a general rule, buy the tools and supplies necessary for fixing common and simple problems, especially if there is some other use for the tool around the house. Buy additional, more specialised tools and supplies only as a need for them develops and then add them to the toolbox for later use. The table shows a list of basic tools and supplies a home plumber might find useful. Each is listed with a note on what it is for. Individual buyers may need slightly different lists, depending on their needs, budget, and skillset.

Plumbing Tool

Why This Tool Is Important

Cup Plunger

A small plunger for unclogging sinks and other drains

Adjustable Wrench

Adjusts for use with bolts and nuts of various sizes and will not scratch soft metals like copper

Socket Set or Ratchet Set

Also for different sizes of nuts and bolts; uses removable sockets of various sizes

Toilet Plunger

Sinks and toilets need separate plungers; some plungers are specially designed for toilets

Tubing Cutters

For cutting pipe evenly so it can fit into a joint

Metal File

For smoothing the ends of cut pipe; more than one type of file may be necessary


For cutting pipe, bolts, and screws; leaves an uneven edge

Adjustable Pipe Wrench

For variously sized pipes

Slip Joint Pliers

Good for getting a better grip on anything

Plumber's Tape and Putty

Seals threading, stops leaks, and prevents rust

Caulk Gun and Silicone Caulk

Prevents and repairs leaks around sinks and tubs

Putty Knife

For applying and removing caulk and wax

Spray Lubricant

For loosening nuts and pipe fittings

Tape Measure

For finding the correct size before shopping for new parts

Safety Glasses

Eye protection

Extra Buckets

Always useful for draining lines, catching leaks, and so forth

Remember to also get a supply of items such as replacement hacksaw blades and cleaning rags. If there is reason to believe a washer or a gasket could give out, perhaps based on its age, then go ahead and buy them ahead of time. Otherwise, there is no sense letting a rubber washer become stiff with age while waiting years for it to be useful.

Favourite Tools for the Professional

There are probably as many lists of favourite tools as there are plumbers, but there are some points of agreement. When it comes to the three to five tools a plumber most wants to be able to grab quickly, slip-joint pliers lead the pack. But not just any slip-joint pliers can do, because plumbers are very particular about their pliers. Everyone has a favourite size and brand. Some prefer to carry two, so as to have two different sizes on hand. Screwdrivers, either six-in-one or nine-in-one models, are also important, as are needlenose pliers, an adjustable wrench, a crescent wrench, and a basin wrench. More specialised tools, such as a seesnake or a handheld blowlamp, might not be used every day, but plumbers still would not willingly do without them.

Choosing Plumbing Tools According to Their Usage

Knowing what plumbing problems are the most common is a good first step to deciding which tools and skills to acquire first. Equally important is knowing when to go ahead and call the plumber. It is good to have a professional available to fix simple leaks, if for whatever reason the resident does not want to do it, but some tasks require professional help.

Common Plumbing Problems: Leaks

Some of the most common home plumbing issues involve leaking pipes or valves. It is important to fix even minor drips promptly, first because drips and leaks generally get worse over time, and second because a constantly dripping faucet can waste a significant amount of water over time. If the leak involves the hot water system, the issue is particularly serious because of the energy and money used to heat the continually running water. Dripping faucets and leaks from the handles of the sink or the base of the toilet are most common, though pipes can occasionally develop holes or cracks as well. A white or rusty deposit on the outside of a pipe is a sign of a leak beginning. Most leaks can be fixed by replacing a washer or a gasket. A wrench of the proper size and the correct replacement part are usually all that is needed. Sometimes a specialised tool may be necessary. Damaged pipes can sometimes be repaired or replaced by the homeowner, though replacing some pipes may require professional help.

Common Plumbing Problems: Clogged Drains and Pipes

Toilets, sinks, and other drains clog often. Clogging can be reduced by being careful about what goes in the toilet and what goes down the drain, but clogs usually cannot be prevented totally. Even a well-screened drain often collects at least some hair. When clogs do occur, there are several options. If using a plunger does not clear the clog, a drain auger can usually pull the blockage out. If a drain auger is not available, a length of thick wire can sometimes substitute. Clog-clearing chemicals also work, but are toxic and should be avoided where possible.

Plumbing Tools for Renovations

Besides plumbing emergencies and repairs, many people at some point want to replace fixtures, sinks, or toilets, or go through other renovations. In many cases, these changes can be done by the homeowners without professional help. The resident can do some of the work, leaving only more specialised tasks to the professionals, thus saving money. Most replacements and renovations sound complicated, but basically involve just a long series of removing bolts and detaching pipes and then adding pipes and fastening bolts. Many of these bolts are specialised in some way and require particular tools. Although these specialised tools might not be needed very often, purchasing them also expands the resident's ability to deal with plumbing emergencies and having necessary tools to lend is a good way to get on well with the neighbours.

When Professionals Are Needed

Professional plumbers come into their own for anything where a mistake might easily make things worse, where highly specialised equipment is needed, or where a permit might be required. Part of a professional plumber's job is to know what permits and inspections are necessary and how to get them. If sewage backs up into the sinks and tubs, there is likely a problem with the main line, and that requires professional attention. Replacing shower valves, bathtubs, or water heaters should also be left to the professionals because mistakes could easily cause additional problems.

Buying Plumbing Tools on eBay

eBay has a large selection of plumbing tools, often at excellent prices. The buying process is also simple and straightforward. Once the buyers know which plumbing tools they need, they can start their search on the eBay's home page.

Finding Plumbing Tools on eBay

There are two ways way to search for a tool on eBay. To browse through groups of similar tools and supplies, type its name, such as toilet plunger or safety glasses, and then use the menu options to narrow the results. To search for something very specific, use the Advanced Search feature.

Buying Plumbing Tools on eBay with Confidence

A few steps can help ensure the buying process goes well. First, if anything about the listing is confusing, ask the seller using the contact link on his or her profile page. Second, use the profile page to look up the seller's feedback score and the details of the return policy. Finally, especially for major purchases, ask the seller to insure shipping.


When it comes to household plumbing, the resident can certainly learn to take care of most problems, but a few extra tools do come in handy. To find out what tools are most important to buy, find out what kinds of plumbing problems are most likely to occur and what tools are necessary to fix those problems. Those who do not know how to use certain tools should not buy them yet, unless someone is available to provide guidance. There is no good reason to risk further damaging the plumbing, or even getting hurt. Instead, when in doubt, call a professional plumber. After all, while most plumbing problems are easy to fix, some are not.

Professional plumbers use most of the same tools as amateurs, plus additional, specialised tools and machines. For someone who makes his or her livelihood plumbing, the exact style and size of a tool can be very important and everyone has a different favourite. Try a number of different options, and see which ones work best.

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