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What’s in a Plumber’s Tool Kit?. There are many different tools that a plumber can use. Depending on the job and the location the tools can range from very small to very large. The types of tools depend on whether your installing or repairing as well.

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There are many different tools that a plumber can use. Depending on the job and the location the tools can range from very small to very large. The types of tools depend on whether your installing or repairing as well.

In this presentation we will look at a typical plumbers tool kit. What you should have on hand for most basic jobs.


Measuring and Layout Tools

1. Measuring Tapes

Most plumbers (and other tradespeople) will carry a steel measuring tape. They are convenient with automatic retractable blades. These come in different sizes from 1cm – 2.5 cm wide and 2 metres – 8 metres long.

Longer tapes are available up to about 100 metres long. These are usually have steel or fibreglass blades and have a winding mechanism for retracting the blades.

Tapes should be kept clean, dry and free from kinks. This can cause the tapes to breakdown and not lie straight. As well the numbers can be worn away with dirt.


2. Rules

These folding rules are typically made of wood or fibreglass. They are solid and are used for taking accurate internal measurements. While most plumbers use the metal tapes the folding rule is still used for certain applications.


3. Squares

Try Square: used for marking and measuring a piece of wood or pipe and for keeping things square.

Framing Square:used for measuring, squaring, and marking cuts or holes on walls and partitions

Combination square: used for multiple purposes in woodworking and metalworking


Layout Tools

Level – A tool used to determine if something is horizontal (level) or vertical (plumb)

There are a variety of sizes of these. They can be small line levels which hang from a string to transfer heights from one area to another. Torpedo levels which are small (about 8 –12 inches); 2 and 4 foot levels, transits which level things over long distances and laser levels which project a beam of light to determine alignment.


Some other layout tools:

Chalk Line – Marking tool with a string coated with chalk used to layout straight lines

Plumb Bob – a string with a weight at the end. When the line is allowed to hang freely it shows an exact vertical point.

Compass and Dividers – Just like those in your geometry set. The compass is used to draw arcs and circles. Dividers have two sharp metal points and is used to divide spaces into equal parts and to scratch the surfaces of harder materials.


Cutting Tools


Saber Saw (Jig Saw) – an electric saw used to cut openings in most soft materials. It can make straight or curved cuts. Cuts material less than 1 ½” inches thick.

A reciprocating saw works similar to a saber saw but has a longer blade for cutting larger material.

With both these saws, there are different blades for different materials. Be sure to use the correct type of blade.

The compass saw is a handsaw with a tapered blade that is used when the electrical saws are not practical.


Hacksaw: A manual metal cutting saw. It has replaceable blades. The plumber will use this saw for cutting metal pipe and it can be used for cutting plastic pipe as well. It is not usually used for precision cutting.

Jab Saw – Is used to fit into tight spaces that a hacksaw cannot. This saw uses a hacksaw blade inserted into a handle.

A backsaw or specialty saw (ie. ABS saw) can be used for cutting plastic pipe. Along with a mitre box you will ensure square cuts for fitting


Files are used for shaping metal, wood or other material. They have cutting teeth that remove small bits of material. There are a variety of types of files that are used for different purposes. Files are designated by their coarseness as well. Generally you would have a 10” – 12” file with second-cut teeth.

Wood chisels are used to trim openings and make notches for pipes. A chisel with a solid steel shank that extends through the handle is best. This provides a surface for striking with a mallet if necessary

The cold chisel is used for cutting metal. There are a variety of styles: flat, cape, round nose, and diamond point. The plumber will generally have a flat chisel which can be used to cut cast iron pipe.


Pipe Cutters

The pipe cutter is something no plumber is without. They are used for, you guessed it, cutting pipe. Different sizes and types of pipe require different cutters.

A general pipe cutter has four moveable parts: a cutter wheel, two guide wheels and an adjusting screw. You insert the pipe between the cutter and the guide wheels. Next adjust the screw until the cutter is snug on the pipe. Then, twist the cutter around the pipe tightening the adjusting screw slightly with each turn until the pipe is cut through.

A soil pipe cutter is used for cutting larger cast iron pipe. It has a chain with cutters and a mechanism to draw thecutter tight.

An Internal Pipe Cutter is used for cutting pipe that is below the surface of a concrete floor so a closet or toilet flange can be installed .


Drilling and Boring Tools

A plumber will typically have an electric drill. This can be corded or cordless. Cordless drills are convenient since you do not need an electrical connection but they run out of power with use and need to be recharged . Corded drills do not need to be recharged but have to have an electrical connection at all times for use. You can also purchase specialty drills such as the offset or angle drill that is used for drilling where space is limited.


There will be a variety of bits used for drilling holes through which pipe can be installed.

Multispur bits are designed for drilling large holes in wood. They range in size from 1 – 4 inches.

Spade bits are cheaper bits that can cut holes between ¼” – 2” in diameter.

The hole saw combines a saw blade with a drill bit to cut larger holes fron 1- 3’in diameter.

The auger bit is similar in shape to a traditional drill bit . It has cutters on the leading edge and an auger to expel the cut material from the the wood.


When working with metal or plastic pipe it is important to ensure that any cuts are clean and free of debris before joining them in any manner. If not cleaned correctly the bits of material left on the pipe, called burrs, can collect deposits and eventually obstruct he flow of water or waste.

Reamers are used to clean any metal or plastic burrs that get left on pipe. The reamer is tapered to fit almost all pipe and has cutters that remove the burrs. Most regular pipe cutters have a reamer on them as well.

Before galvanized metal pipe can be assembled in a plumbing system the ends must be threaded. So that can be screwed together. For this you need to use a pipe die. This has cutters which make a spiral cut in the pipe, similar to the top of a pop bottle.


Holding and Assembling Tools

When plumbing you will need a variety of these types of tools.

Wrenches: You will a selection of these.

Pipe Wrenches, while adjustable, come in different sizes for different sized pipe. Pipe wrenches are usually sold in the following sizes (in inches): 10, 14, 18, 24, 36, and 48. They are usually made of either steel or aluminum

They have heavy toothed jaws for gripping pipe. The teeth are set at an angle to grip the soft pipe. You will generally need at least two as they often have to be used together to loosen or tighten pipe..

Three types of pipe wrenches are the Straight, End and Offset


Some other specialty plumbing wrenches are :

The chain wrench which uses a chain wrapped around the pipe. It dispenses pressure more uniformly and doesn’t take up as much space.

The strap wrench is used on chrome-plated or other finished pipe. It uses a material strap that won’t scratch the finish of the pipe.

The Monkey or Spud Wrench looks similar to the pipe wrench except the jaws are smooth and they don’t tighten as pressure is being applied. It is useful for turning or holding objects that have flat edges. Pipe fittings, valves, and fixtures have hex or square shoulders that allow the use of this tool.


There are many general use wrenches that the plumber will use. Some of these are:

Open-end, Box-end and Combination wrenches: These come in a wide variety of sizes in both metric and imperial measurements.

Adjustable wrenches are popular since they can replace several different sizes of open-end wrenches. Force is always applied in the direction of the moveable jaw.

In cramped work spaces a plumber can use a basin wrench to loosen and tighten nuts that secure faucets and other plumbing to vanities, kitchen counter tops, sinks etc.


Pliers are another general tool that a plumber needs. These come in different sizes and styles. Typically a plumber will have grooved joint and/or Slip joint pliers that can be widened to different sizes; and locking pliers that have a vice mechanism to hold things or to clamp onto a nut or bolt that has the shoulders worn away


Hammers are important in your tool kit. A standard 16oz hammer will be used for nailing in braces and fastening boards as well as for removing, any pieces of wood that may obstruct your pipe run. (ensure that the removal or addition of any material does not weaken the structure or interfere with other trades).

A ball peen hammer can be used for driving punches and chisels.

A variety of screwdrivers are necessary as well. The plumber should have all the standard screwdriver heads; straight, Phillips, Robertson, in a variety of sizes.. In installing any fixtures you can run into any of these types of screws. You can purchase an all-in-one screwdriver set that will have a wide variety of screwdriver heads.


A plunger is a common device used to release stoppages in plumbing. it consists of a rubber cup with an attached stick, usually made of wood. The cup is pushed down against the drain, to force air in, or to pullout, causing a vacuum. The intent is to loosen or break up a clog, excessive material, or other blockage in a sink, toilet, bathtub, shower, etc.

There are two types: The sink plunger has a flat rim to fit over a drain. The toilet plunger which has a flange which fits into the toilet

The Closet Auger is a specialized plumbing tool used to clear stubborn clogs in toilets. The auger has a flexible shaft with a special auger bit at the end. There is a hand crank that is used to turn the shaft. The end bit tears into the obstruction and removes the material. Special care should be taken as their could be waste material attached to the auger when it is removed.


For joining copper pipe or putting on fittings, you will need a good soldering torch. Typically, this consists of a 1lb. Propane tank and a flame head. To light it you can use a spark lighter . You will also need flux and solder as well as some emery cloth.

Professional plumbers may have variations of the torch but the premise is the same.


While this is a pretty extensive list of tools, these are the basic tools that a general plumber will have. There are times when specialized tools will be needed. Depending on the size of the job to be completed, whether it is a new install or a renovation, what needs to be done, etc. will determine the types of tools needed

There are times as well when specially trained people will need to be called on to operate certain tools or to perform certain tasks.

It is important that you know and understand the tools you use. Know and follow all the safety rules of the tools. Use the tool for what it was made for. Know the tools limitations and your limitations as well.


Using Ch. 2, Modern Plumbing by Blankenbaker, complete the following activities:

Explain and demonstrate one of the plumbing tools . How to use, safety, etc.

Explain the teeth of the hacksaw.

Explain how to care for and sharpen files and chisels.

Explain the different types of files and their uses.

Explain how to use a pipe wrench.

Explain the proper use of an adjustable wrench.