Essential plumber’s tool kit

All you need to fix leaks, clogs and other plumbing disasters

By Gary Rudy


Photo by Daniel Harrison

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A very efficient contractor I know organizes his tools into several different kinds of kits. He has a different tool kit for each kind of job: a plumbing kit; an electrical kit; a drywall kit. He says arranging his gear in specific job-related kits keeps him from having to carry a bunch of unnecessary stuff around, and ensures everything will be close at hand when he needs it. It sounded like a good idea to me and, ever since, I’ve been organizing my tools the same way. v While some plumbing projects require only common hand tools, others are made much easier with specialized tools. As you expand the scope of the jobs you’re willing to take on, the tools you have in your kit will also grow. Here are the essential tools and techniques to get you started on basic plumbing fixes.

Copper pipe repair

Tools required: Propane torch, flame shield, pipe cutter, tape measure, extra lengths of copper pipe and fittings, including elbows, unions and caps. You’ll also need solder paste and brush, solder wire, emery cloth and safety glasses.

Technique: Turn off the water supply and open any nearby valves or faucets. Remove burrs from the inside and outside edges of the pipe using emery cloth or a de-burring tool. Use emery cloth to clean the outside and inside of the two pipes being joined. If the copper isn’t clean, the solder might not bond properly and the joint may leak. Brush acid-free flux on both the outside of the male fitting and the inside of the female fitting. The flux cleans the copper and helps prevent oxidation as the pipe heats up. If the pipe becomes oxidized, it might leak.

Dry-fit the two pieces of pipe together, then unroll and straighten about four inches of solder wire, using the roll or container as a handle when applying the solder.

Heat the joint using a propane torch, moving the flame around to ensure that the whole pipe is heated. You’ll know the joint is hot enough when the flux begins to bubble. Now touch the tip of the solder to the joint. The solder should melt immediately and disappear into the joint. Remove the heat. Move the remaining solder wire around the entire joint to fill it in all the way around. If the pipe cools before the whole joint has been soldered, reheat it gently as required.

If you’re working close to potentially flammable material, use a flame shield to protect the surrounding surfaces from catching fire, and always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.



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