Home Plumbing How to Choose the Right Plumbing Tools for Your Home Toolbox

How to Choose the Right Plumbing Tools for Your Home Toolbox

by Michael Blount

Having the right tools on hand can make a big difference when tackling plumbing projects around your home. Whether it’s fixing a leaky faucet, replacing a broken pipe, or unclogging a blocked drain, having a well-equipped toolbox allows you to address issues quickly and avoid the hassle and expense of calling in a professional. Investing in quality plumbing tools upfront can save you significant time and money over the long run.

This guide will provide an overview of the essential plumbing tools every homeowner should have, factors to consider when selecting equipment, specialized tools for advanced projects, must-have safety gear, tips for toolbox organization and maintenance, advice for novice DIYers, and more. Read on to learn how to build the ultimate home plumbing toolbox tailored to your skill level and projects.

Plumbing problems like dripping faucets, clogged drains, and leaky pipes can arise at the most inconvenient times. Having the right tools on hand allows you to tackle minor repairs yourself instead of waiting days for a plumber. Investing in professional-grade plumbing tools for your home toolbox enables you to:

  • Save money on plumber fees for routine maintenance and small repairs
  • Quickly fix annoying leaks and clogs when they occur
  • Maintain your plumbing in good working order to prevent bigger problems
  • Learn new DIY skills and take on more complex projects
  • Take control of home maintenance on your own schedule

Building a home plumbing toolkit requires an initial investment, but quality tools will pay for themselves over years of use. Purchase essential basic tools first, then add specialized equipment as needed for more advanced projects. Focus on versatile tools suited for a variety of plumbing tasks.

With some planning and strategic purchases, you can assemble a DIY plumbing toolbox that rivals a professional’s. This comprehensive guide will walk you through choosing the must-have tools for plumbing projects ranging from basic repairs to complete remodels. Let’s dive in!

Essential Plumbing Tools

Certain basic plumbing tools should form the foundation of any home toolbox. Having these essentials on hand allows you to tackle a wide range of common plumbing problems in and around your home.

Basic Hand Tools

It’s impossible to work on plumbing projects without a set of general hand tools. Start with these basics:

  • Plumber’s pliers – These adjustable pliers are designed to grip pipes, nuts and bolts. Look for models with cushioned grips.
  • Channellock pliers – The adjustable jaws on these allow you to grip pipes or fittings. Purchase multiple sizes.
  • Pipe wrench – Used for assembling and disassembling threaded pipes and fittings. Choose 10″ and 14″ sizes.
  • Basin wrench – Designed to reach nuts in the cramped space under sinks. Opt for a wrench with a long handle.
  • Tongue and groove pliers – Useful for turning and gripping rounded objects like pipes. A 10″ model should meet most needs.
  • Slip joint pliers – The jaws on these can grip pipes or rounded fixtures. An 8″ size is standard.
  • Hacksaw – For cutting plastic, copper, and steel pipes to size. Select plumbing hacksaws with durable 32-tooth blades.
  • Utility knife – Useful for cutting and scraping. Choose one with breakoff blades.
  • Hammer – A 16-oz claw hammer allows you to remove nails and pry objects.
  • Mini pry bar – Essential for maneuvering pipes into position or prying things apart.
  • Tape measure – Look for one at least 25 feet long for plumbing projects. Get one that stands up alone.
  • Torpedo level – Use this portable level to ensure pipes are aligned properly when working.
  • Adjustable wrench – A medium-sized (8″) wrench provides flexibility for various bolts and nuts.
  • Screwdrivers – Have Phillips, flathead, and other common screwdriver types in multiple sizes.
  • Allen wrench set – Used for tightening and loosening hex fasteners. Opt for metric and SAE sizes.
  • Cordless drill – Choose a lightweight but powerful drill for driving screws and boring holes.
  • Pliers eel – This flexible auger can clear clogs from sinks, tubs, and showers.
  • Tubing cutter – For neatly cutting flexible tubing in sizing down pipes.

Faucet and Drain Tools

You’ll need specialized tools for servicing sinks, showers, tubs, and other fixtures. Basic faucet and drain tools include:

  • Basin wrench – Designed to reach nuts in the cramped space under sinks. Opt for a wrench with a long handle.
  • Faucet handle puller – Allows you to easily remove stuck faucet handles.
  • Supply line wrench – Loosens compression fittings on flexible supply lines.
  • Spud wrench – For removing toilet supply line nuts or opening floor cleanouts.
  • Tubing cutter – For neatly cutting flexible tubing in sizing down pipes.
  • Sink plunger – Creates suction for clearing clogged drains. Get a heavy-duty rubber one.
  • Plumber’s snake – This flexible steel coil can clear clogs from pipes and fixtures.
  • Closet auger – Similar to a snake but designed specifically for toilets.
  • Test plug – Seals off pipes to check for leaks or block flow when soldering.
  • Tub drain wrench – Loosens tub drain nuts to remove clogged drains.
  • Drain auger – Feeds a rotating cable into pipes to break up clogs.
  • Pipe wrench – Used for assembling and disassembling threaded pipes and fittings. Choose 10″ and 14″ sizes.

Soldering and Gluing Supplies

Many plumbing repairs require soldering copper pipes or gluing PVC joints. Keep these soldering and glue supplies stocked:

  • Lead-free solder – Look for solder labeled 95/5 tin/antimony.
  • Soldering flux – Prevents oxidation and helps solder adhere to copper.
  • Emery cloth – Used to buff pipe ends before soldering.
  • Wire brush – To remove corrosion and prime copper for soldering.
  • Propane torch – Heats pipes evenly when soldering. Use MAPP gas for higher heat.
  • PVC primer and cement – Prepares PVC for bonding. Buy products labeled for potable water.
  • Pipe joint compound – Seals threaded NPT fittings. Look for Teflon-based compounds.
  • Teflon tape – Used to wrap male pipe threads before connections.
  • Sandcloth – Useful for roughing pipe surfaces before gluing. Look for 50-grit.
  • Heat shield paste – Protects nearby plumbing from torch heat when soldering.

Considerations for Tool Selection

Not all plumbing tools are created equal. Follow these guidelines when purchasing tools for your DIY plumbing toolkit:

Purchase Commercial-Grade Tools

Consumer-grade tools from home improvement stores are affordable, but they generally aren’t durable enough for regular plumbing work. Investing in professional-quality tools ensures they will stand up to repeated use without breaking or wearing out quickly. Commercial-grade tools are worth the extra cost since you won’t have to replace them down the road.

Seek Out Ergonomic Tool Designs

Many plumbing tasks require extended time handling tools, so seek out ergonomic designs to prevent hand and wrist fatigue. Look for tools with padded, non-slip grips that feel comfortable in your hand. Well-balanced tools reduce strain. Leverage-enhancing handles provide better leverage with less effort.

Buy Corrosion-Resistant Tools

The moist environments common in plumbing can cause tools to rust and corrode over time. Seek out tools made from corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel, chrome-vanadium, and polymer composites. Look for designs that protect components from exposure.

Ensure Good Grip Strength

Tools like pliers and wrenches need strong, precise jaws to grip pipes, bolts, and fittings. Purchase commercial-grade tools from reputable brands that provide exceptional gripping power without slipping or stripping. This provides more torque when turning fittings.

Select Versatile, Multi-Purpose Tools

Seek tools like adjustable wrenches and pliers that allow you to adjust the jaws and handle a range of jobs. Multi-purpose tools with numerous functions take up less space in your toolbox. Versatile drain cleaners work on sinks, tubs, and main lines.

Check for Proper Weight Distribution

Well-balanced plumbing tools reduce hand strain and make work easier. Test tools in the store to ensure the weight is evenly distributed. Heavy, imbalanced tools increase fatigue. Lighter weight doesn’t always mean lower quality.

Buy Durable Storage Cases

Protect your tool investment by storing items in durable cases and pouches. Look for designs with padded interiors, customizable organization, and water resistance. Sturdy cases prevent tools from getting damaged when not in use.

Compare Warranties

Look for plumbing tools that come with a solid warranty from the manufacturer. Long warranties show the company stands behind the durability of their products. Lifetime warranties provide peace of mind for high-cost tools.

Specialized Tools for Advanced Projects

Once you’ve assembled a collection of essential plumbing tools, you can add specialized tools needed for certain complex repair and remodeling tasks:

Pipe Cutters

Copper and plastic pipe cutters quickly cut through pipes with a tightening ring that won’t pinch or deform the pipe walls. This creates a straight cut for joining.

  • Copper tubing cutter – Cuts Type M rigid copper tubing with ease. Get a 1/8″ to 1″ size range.
  • PVC pipe cutter – Designed for Schedule 40 and 80 PVC pipe. Lubricate blades for smooth cuts.
  • Mini tubing cutter – Cuts smaller diameter PEX, copper, and CPVC tubing in tight spaces.

Drain Cleaning Tools

Specialized drain augers give you longer reach and more cleaning power for tough main line clogs:

  • Electric drain auger – Uses a motorized cable for extra torque and reach down pipes.
  • Expanding drain auger – Has a cable that expands to break through blockages.
  • Main line drain auger – Features a 50′ cable for extreme reach into main drains.

Specialty Wrenches

Specific wrench designs provide better leverage and access for tasks like removing faucet nuts:

  • Faucet socket wrench – Fits faucet nuts and offers greater leverage.
  • Faucet seat wrench – Grips seat deep inside faucets to remove or install.
  • Supply line wrench – Loosens compression fittings on flexible supply pipes.
  • Chain wrench – Conforms around pipes and bars for increased grip.

Power Tools

Cordless power tools make repetitive plumbing tasks easier:

  • Cordless drill – Drills holes through studs and drives in screws faster.
  • Cordless jigsaw – Cuts pipes, holes in walls, and other custom plumbing jobs.
  • Cordless reciprocating saw – Cuts through pipes, drywall, and small studs.
  • Oscillating tool – The rounded blade cuts openings behind walls for pipes.

Soldering Tools

Specialized soldering tools like these make pipes joints precise:

  • Pipe deburring tool – Used to smooth and chamfer the edges of cut pipe.
  • Pipe brush – Cleans inside of pipes prior to soldering.
  • Soldering paste flux brush – Applies flux inside copper to prepare joints.

Measuring Instruments

Advanced measurements ensure proper pipe slopes and fixture alignment:

  • Laser level – Projects horizontal and vertical laser lines for hands-free leveling.
  • Digital level – Easy-to-read level shows precise measurements.
  • Water level – Permits precise leveling over long distances.
  • Pipe compass – Scribes arcs to mark angled cuts when bending pipes.

Plumbing Camera

A plumbing camera lets you see inside pipes, showing any concealed issues:

  • Drain inspection camera – Snakes into pipes to diagnose clogs and corrosion.
  • Endoscope camera – Portable camera on a flexible cord checks drains.

Safety Gear and Equipment

Safety should always be your top concern when tackling any type of plumbing work. Equip your toolbox with these essential safety supplies:

Protective Gloves

Wear thick, chemical-resistant gloves to protect hands from sharp tools and irritating substances.

  • Latex gloves – For handling harsh cleaning chemicals. Opt for long versions.
  • Work gloves – Durable leather gloves prevent injuries from sharp tools and pipes.
  • Rubber gloves – Insulate hands and increase grip when handling slippery pipes.
  • Cut-resistant gloves – Woven fiberglass or Dyneema gloves protect hands from sharp blades.

Eye Protection

Always wear eye protection like goggles or a face shield when cutting pipes or drilling to prevent eye injuries from flying debris. Look for durable, splash-proof goggles that provide a full seal around the eyes.

Ear Plugs

Use disposable foam ear plugs or earmuffs when working with loud power tools like drills. This protects hearing.

Dust Mask

Wear a simple disposable dust mask when cutting into walls or drilling overhead to avoid inhaling drywall dust or insulation particles.

Knee Pads

Thick knee pads cushion your joints when kneeling on hard floors for extended periods during plumbing tasks. Look for ergonomic gel-filled designs.

Work Boots

Wear sturdy, steel-toe work boots at all times to protect feet from falling tools and heavy pipes or fittings. Waterproof construction keeps feet dry.

First Aid Kit

Keep a well-stocked first aid kit nearby to treat minor cuts, abrasions, or burns. Include bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin/ibuprofen, medical tape, and antiseptic wipes.

Organizing and Maintaining Your Toolbox

How you store and care for your plumbing tools will directly impact their longevity and performance. Keep these tips in mind:

Categorize Tools Thoughtfully

Group tools according to function to make items easier to locate quickly. For example, store all drain cleaning equipment together. Arrange tools you use most frequently near the top.

Utilize Tool Rolls or Bags

Store sets of related tools like wrenches together in tool rolls that keep items organized and free of damage. This prevents losing small pieces.

Label Tool Storage Locations

Use tags or labels to identify what belongs in each drawer, compartment, or slot in your toolbox so tools get returned in the proper place after use.

Clean Tools After Each Use

Remove dirt, debris, and grime from tools after finishing a plumbing job to prevent corrosion and damage. Wipe down tools with a dry cloth.

Lubricate Moving Parts

Apply light oil or lubricant to hinges, ratchets, sliding components, and adjustable joints on tools to prevent rust and keep parts moving smoothly.

Inspect for Damage

Check tools for wear and damage like cracks or excessive corrosion before storing them. Repair or replace any compromised tools.

Replace Tool Bags

If tool bags or cases show signs of tearing or deterioration, replace them to prevent tools from falling out. Store tools in a dry place.

Hang Long Tools

Maximize toolbox space by hanging frequently-used long tools like pipe wrenches and duct rods from hooks on tool chest lids.

Outline Storage Locations

Use foam, tool outlines, or shadow boards so you can easily identify if any tools are missing from the toolbox. This saves time hunting.

Keeping your plumbing tools properly maintained and organized ensures they are protected and ready to use for years to come.

Tips for Novice DIY Plumbers

If you’re new to home plumbing repairs, start out with simple projects and work your way up to more complex tasks. Follow these tips to get started:

Learn Basics From Books

Read DIY plumbing manuals or watch online tutorials to understand essential concepts like proper pipe joining, venting, and drain slopes. Understanding proper techniques is vital.

Start Small

Tackle easy repairs like fixing leaky faucets, replacing sink washers, or installing new PVC pipes first. Simple projects build skills and confidence.

Budget Extra Time

Double the time you’d expect a pro to take until you get proficient at tasks. Rushing leads to frustration and mistakes. Allow a learning curve.

Have Patience

Accept that you’ll make some mistakes early on. Don’t get discouraged. Plumbing skills take years to master. Each project will enhance your knowledge.

Watch for Water Damage

Exercise extra caution when cutting pipes or soldering joints near walls. Water leakage can cause major property damage if you’re not careful.

Research Permits

Determine if you need plumbing permits for significant drain, vent, or supply line modifications. Not obtaining required permits can lead to fines.

Upgrade Water Supply

Replace old steel, iron, and lead pipes with modern flexible PEX lines when possible. This prevents leaks and improves water flow.

Know When to Call a Pro

Some complex tasks like sewer line replacement are best left to professionals with years of experience and specialized equipment. Know your limits.


Choosing the right plumbing tools for household repairs doesn’t need to be complicated or overwhelming. Start by purchasing fundamental tools like wrenches, pliers, and drain snakes to equip yourself to perform basic maintenance and clear simple clogs.

As you gain experience tackling routine plumbing projects, invest in more specialized tools tailored to advanced tasks like soldering copper pipes, replacing fixtures, and clearing main drain blockages. Pay close attention to tool quality and ergonomic designs to ensure your toolkit lasts for years of use.

Store tools properly and keep them maintained so they function like new each time. Approach DIY plumbing with patience and allow yourself time to learn proper techniques before attempting complex repairs. While basic maintenance is achievable for most homeowners, don’t be afraid to still call a professional for major plumbing work like sewer line replacement that requires specialized equipment and skills.

With a well-equipped toolbox, common sense safety practices, and some fundamental plumbing know-how, you can take care of many minor issues yourself instead of waiting for a plumber. This will save significant amounts of money and time over the long run. Invest in quality tools and materials from reputable brands. Building your skills as a DIY plumber allows you to quickly address problems, upgrade home systems preventively, and increase the value of your property through upgraded plumbing.

Approach new projects methodically and don’t become overwhelmed. With each task completed, you will gain valuable hands-on experience that makes the next repair even easier. In time, having the right tools and knowledge on hand empowers homeowners to solve a surprising range of plumbing challenges independently. Equipped with this guide, you now have an overview of the essential tools for outfitting a DIY home plumbing toolbox. Use it as a reference when selecting equipment tailored to your current and future needs.

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