Basic Plumbing Tools - A Wrench By Any Other Name


One of the most important factors in any DIY plumbing repair is to makes sure you are using the right tool for the job. If you are trying to remove a faucet from your sink you will probably required a basin wrench - using any other tool is likely to do nothing more than cause frustration and/or injury. If there is one key piece of advice that you take away from this page it would be this: the time you save by not buying, renting, or borrowing the correct tool will quickly be wasted.

Wrenches and Pliers - This category of tool will be the most common for your plumbing repairs. They can be broken down by type as follows:

  • Adjustable or Crescent wrench - This is the most common type of tool used when you are dealing with a threaded fitting. A thumbwheel allows you to adjust the gap between the jaws of the wrench for the fitting you are working on and smooth jaw design minimizes cosmetic damage.
  • Pliers - Pliers are ampter staple in the average homeowners toolbox. Most toolsets usually include a couple different sized of adjustable pliers (usually these have a set of different channels used to adjust the width of the jaws). Beyond their obvious use in loosening or tightening nuts or fittings these are also used for tasks like holding pipes or fittings while soldering. Care needs to be taken when using pliers so that you do not damage the fixtures - many manufacturers can provide smooth sleeves that go over the jaws of the pliers to protect the working surface.
  • Pipe Wrench - This is the tool most commonly associated with plumbing projects. This wrench is typically large and heavy (and more often than not red and rusty) and used exactly as its name implies - to get a grip on a pipe or pipe fitting. If you are working with copper or pvc it is unlikely you will use it, however if you are trying to take the cap off of your main septic cleanout this is the tool for the job. A pipe wrench is usually used on larger diameter/thickness steel or iron pipes. Soft and/or thin walled pipe and fittings can be easily damaged by this tool so it is best to use pliers or adjustable wrenches on those materials .
  • Basin Wrench - A basin wrench is a bit odd looking. Usually it has a set of rounded, spring loaded jaws and often is adjustable in length. Upon first glance it is difficult to fathom how this tool can be used until you apply it where it is commonly used, under a sink (or basin - hence the name basin wrench) to remove a faucet. The adjustable body allows you to reach into the narrow area where the fixture is attached where the spring loaded head automatically adjust to the nut holding the fitting. The "T" handle then allows you to easily loosen or tighten as necessary. This is one tool you truly do not appreciate until you try to work without it.
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