DIY Plumbing Tools & Materials

In addition to the usual measuring and marking tools (rules, pencil, spirit level) and items like abrasive papers, a few more tools and items are required for undertaking routine plumbing work:

  • A plunger is the first (and often the only) tool you'll need to clear a blocked sink or WC.
  • You'll need a screwdriver to take out the screws that hold the sections of taps together.
  • Two adjustable spanners are needed to tighten fittings. The most useful sizes are either 255mm 10 1/4in) or 350mm (14in) long.
  • In situations where heavily corroded pipe fittings have to be removed, a pair of Stilson wrenches will let you clamp securely on one side of the pipe while you manipulate the other section of pipe with the other wrench.
  • Pipes can be cut either with a rotary pipe cutter or a hacksaw. The standard hacksaw is either 255mm (10 1/4in) or 305mm (12 1/4in) long. Copper pipe is quite soft and easy to cut. You can use low-tungsten steel blades for this, but a stainless steel high-speed blade will be more durable, if more expensive. For pipes over 15mm (3/4in), a blade with 32 teeth to each 25mm (1 in) should be used. A junior hacksaw is useful for most pipe cutting as it can cut in awkward spaces more easily. Blades should be fitted with the teeth pointing away from the handle. Adjust the wing nut on the hacksaw to take up the slack in the blade and then give the wing nut only three full turns; don't over-tighten it.
  • When you cut pipe, you need to secure it firmly. Use a pipe vice, or lightweight portable vice. Don't over-tighten the jaws or you may distort the pipe.
  • If you have a large amount of cutting to do, consider investing in a rotary pipe cutter. These cut fast and accurately. There are two main types: one with two rollers and a cutter, and one with three cutters. Rotary cutters have three toughened wheels - one is the cutting wheel - mounted on a frame to form a triangle. These can be used on pipe of various diameters because the cutting wheel is fixed on an adjustable threaded spindle.
  • Depending on whether or not you are using a hacksaw or a rotary pipe cutter, you will need a flat and a round file. If you are using a hack-saw, run the flat file across the face of the cut to remove any irregularities and then slightly chamfer the outer pipe ends; this will make it easier to connect fittings. Use the round file to remove the burrs from inside the mouth of the cut.
  • Bending springs and bending machines (bought or hired) are the best at bending copper pipe. When you make bends, especially in small fittings such as 15mm (3/4in) elbows, they should be used sparingly as water turbulence and pressure loss can result at such joints as water tries to negotiate its way through. Bending springs are pieces of tough coiled steel which stop the pipe from being flattened when it is bent. Insert them into the pipe, with the middle of the spring roughly where the point of the bend is to be. Next, bend the pipe: small bore copper pipe is easy to bend across your knee. Larger bore pipe may be harder to bend: drill a hole in a piece of stout wood that can be held securely in a vice. Thread the pipe through the hole and then bend it. If you over-bend the pipe the spring will get stuck: unbend the pipe a little or insert a screw-driver into the eye of the spring and turn in order to 'unscrew' it. If you have a lot of pipe bending to do it's best to hire a bending machine. Tighter, more precise bends are the result. Plastic pipe is not easy to bend so add elbow fittings.
  • For capillary connections you'll need a Butane gas torch, plumbing lead, 'mole' tallow, solder, flux and fine wire wool.
  • Thread connections will leak unless they are made watertight. Some plumbers use plumbers' hemp with jointing compound but PTFE tape is more usual. This is white plastic tape that is wound around the thread of fittings in an anti-clockwise direction to seal and lubricate the joint. If you are installing plastic pipes for water supply, these are joined by a solvent weld using a non-toxic cement.

Plumbing Toolbox

  1. Saw
  2. Protective gloves
  3. Screwdrivers
  4. Sink plunger
  5. Adjustable spanner
  6. Cranked spanner
  7. Vice grip
  8. Bleed key
  9. Hacksaw
  10. Stilson wrenches
  11. Rotary pipe cutter
  12. Bending springs
  13. Butane gas torch
  14. PTFE tape
  15. Solvent weld
  16. Joints and fittings
  17. Jointing compound/cement
  18. Hand-operated air compressor
  19. Drain auger
  20. Power hose
  21. Tile nippers
  22. Tile-cutting jig
  23. Notched spreader
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