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Plumbing problems are common. Depending on the severity, plumbing problems range from annoying to outright dangerous. For that reason, you want to have a professional plumber on call in case anything goes wrong. The plumber might arrive just in time to fix the problem and save you from spending hours to clean a huge mess of hundreds of dollars fixing serious damage to your property.
However, even with access to an emergency plumber, it’s a good idea to have an emergency plumbing toolkit available to fix some problems yourself. They can even help prevent more serious problems from worsening as you wait for an emergency plumber to arrive. Here are five tools you must have in your emergency plumbing toolkit.
Adjustable Pipe Wrench
Get a durable, sturdy pipe wrench that you can use with relative ease. For a homeowner, a pipe wrench with a length of 14‒18 inches should do. A professional plumber may have a larger pipe wrench or more than one to work on different projects. Check the specifications engraved on the pipe wrench to determine its size and the materials used to manufacturer it.
Like many other tools in your toolkit, it’s advisable to get a high-quality pipe wrench that you will use for years. We recommend the following pipe wrenches.
- Best overall: Tradespro 830914 14-Inch Heavy Duty Pipe Wrench
- Best value: RIDGID 31100 Model 818 Aluminum Straight Pipe Wrench, 18-inch Plumbing Wrench
- Most affordable: Ridgid 31000 6″ Pipe Wrench, Red
Clogged toilets, showers, and sinks are among the most common plumbing problems. You can unclog them with a plunger, which is available in different varieties depending on what you want to unclog. The size, shape, and material of a plunger’s compression container determine the cases where it’s useful.
A standard sink plunger has a bell-shaped rubber suction cup attached to the end of a wooden or plastic handle. This plunger unblocks sinks and tubs by covering the drain and creating a suction force. A toilet/flange plunger, which looks a lot like a sink plunger, has a pliable rubber flap that takes the shape of the toilet bowl opening and creates a vacuum. This vacuum facilitates the creation of the suction need to unclog the toilet.
We recommend that you get both a cup and a flange plunger to unclog your sinks and toilets, respectively. However, if you must have only one, go for the flange plunger because it can often unclog sinks, whereas a cup plunger cannot effectively unclog a toilet.
A plumbing snake (also known as a drain auger) is a long, sturdy, flexible wire that you maneuver down a pipe or drain to unclog it. It comes in different varieties, depending on your use case and budget. Here are a few that we recommend.
- Best overall: FlexiSnake Drain Millipede
- Most affordable: Green Gobbler Hair Grabber Drain Tool | Hair Clog Remover | Drain Opener for Sinks, Tubs & Showers
- Best powered: Ryobi P4001 One+ 18V Lithium-Ion All-In-One 25 Foot Drain Auger
- Best for sinks: Cobra Drain Cleaning Tool
- Best for toilets: RIDGID 59787 K-3 Toilet Auger
- Best extra-long: Husky 1/2 in. x 50 ft. Drain Auger
- Best for hair: BRASSCRAFT BC00400 Zip-it Drain Cleaning Tool
- Best kit: Drano Gel Drain Clog Remover and Cleaner 16oz and Snake Plus Tool 16 inches
Plumbing tape, also called Teflon tape, often comes in rolls of thin white tape. It helps to lubricate and seal threaded joints. The tape creates a seal when you apply the right amount of torque to the pipe joints. Used to seal only metal pipe, plumbing tape is ineffective for sealing PVC, which require cement sealant.
You can use regular plumbing tape to iron and copper pipes in taps and showerheads. Gas pipes require a special type of yellow plumbing tape. To use the tape, wrap it clockwise; that is, in the same direction as the feminine fitting turns. Doing so ensures that the tape fills all the grooves of the threading, effectively sealing it.
The plumbing tape’s density determines how many times you should wrap it around the pipe. Two or three times is usually enough for regular plumbing tape. To be sure, you can wrap it once or twice more to create a proper seal. When you apply sufficient torque to the fitting, the tape compresses into the thread.
Be careful not to fray the tape too much when you snap it away from the roll. Fraying diminishes the ability of the tape to create a seal. It can also make screwing in the fitting a bit difficult.
Allen Wrench Set
An Allen wrench (also known as Allen key or hex key) is a single-piece, L-shaped metal wrench with a hexagonal head. These wrenches fit into hex screws and 6-sided bolts that you often find on various plumbing fixtures such as garbage disposals and showerheads. Allen wrenches usually come in a set with wrenches of multiple sizes to match different hex screw and bolt sizes.
To use an Allen wrench, you fit it into the corresponding hex screw. Loosen or tighten the hex screw by firmly gripping the wrench’s straight end and applying sufficient torque. When you run out of room to turn the wrench, pull it out and fit it back into the hexagonal in the initial position. Repeat this as many times as you need to completely tighten or loosen the screw or bolt.
Often, the first Allen wrench you pick from the set won’t match the size of the screw or bolt. Minimize the time you spend identifying the right wrench by erring on the side of a smaller than required wrench. As with the other tools we recommend in this article, buy a high-quality Allen wrench set to ensure you get maximum value as it will last years.
For Serious Plumbing Problem, Always Call a Professional
Of course, these are only but a few of the tools you may need to fix certain plumbing problems. They are suitable for quick, minor fixes. In case you run into serious plumbing problems, call an emergency plumber. The plumbers at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain have all the equipment, training, and experience needed to ensure that the plumbing problem is unlikely to recur.