As with any profession, getting kitted for the job at hand and making sure to have the correct tools for the job are almost as important as knowing what you are doing. You will need a lot of different tools if you are hoping to work as a successful plumber and there are a lot of different types to choose in between. As with any type of job, you get good, solid tools and not so great tools. In my opinion it is therefore worth investing in good quality ones that will last you a long a time. Once you have purchased your tools, remember to take good care of them. Keep them clean, sharp and dry and occasionally smear them with a thin coating of oil.
Gripping wrenches are always good to have and the largest and in my opinion, the most useful one is the Stillsons. They are designed for gripping round pipes. They should never be used for turning nuts that you are hoping to reuse and they should also never be used on copper pipes as they can come to damage and distort them. If you ever have to remove old steel pipe from a galvanised hot water tank, you might find that a large Stillsons is the tool for the job. I would recommend to keep two different size Stillsons in your tool box. I use an 8 inch and a 14 inch pair. If you would ever need a larger one, say a 24 inch one, these could always be hired.
If you need a tool to grip on to something and basically giving you an extra set of hands, I would use a self-grip wrench called Molegrips. Newer designs have slightly curved jaws, allowing it to be more effective on different types of pipes and on stiff nuts.
Waterpump pliers are also known as gland nut or slip-joint pliers. Unlike many other gripping wrenches these are actually very useful for turning nuts. This is because of the serration on the pliers allows a firm and safe grip on the nut. Another good thing with waterpump pliers is that they can be set to different jaw openings.
A useful but not necessarily an essential tool for a plumber is the vice. It can be used either to hold pipes when making joints or to hold on to fittings when dismantling them. It you are working on a copper pipe, make sure you are using a vice with pipe jaws as they are less likely to distort or damage it. If you want to buy any of these wrenches I would like to recommend local suppliers in Liverpool but to be honest you get the best prices at Plumb Centre, so go there.
As mentioned before, a plumber needs a lot of different tools in order to do his job. In this article I will mention three of these tools. The first tool is the pipe cutter. This is used when you need to make neat cuts to a copper pipe and it is by far the quickest and easiest tool to use. Unlike a hacksaw, a pipe cutter does not cause metal filing and sharp marks on the outside of the pipe and it also creates a very neat and square finish to the end of the pipe you are working on. A pipe cutter can sometimes cause slight marks on the outside of the pipe but if this is the case, most pipe cutters have a tapered reamer at the end or in the middle of it, allowing you to smooth the pipe after cutting it. I hope this goes without saying but all pipes and fittings are to be smooth on the inside. There are special pipe cutters for pipes in difficult to reach places or for pipes close to walls. These are called pipe-slicers or mini pipe cutters.
There are several different gripping wrenches on the market and that can be very useful for a plumber. The second type of tool that I will mention is pliers. Personally, I find that a pair of general purpose pliers always comes in handy and my choice of pliers is what normally is referred to as an electrician’s type. As these come with rubber handles, it makes it easier to grip and more comfortable to use, especially after an extended length of use. The easiest tool to use when removing floorboard nails is a pair of pincers.
Now, the third tool I am going to mention is what a lot of people might first think of when it comes to plumbers and plumbing works. It is also a tool that most people already have in their homes, just in case of an emergency: the plunger. Depending on the seriousness of the drain or waste blockage, specialist equipment is sometimes needed or you might even have to use a specialist drain clearing firm. However, very often you can sort out the blockage by using a normal plunger. As I mentioned, most houses will normally have one of these but in any case, it should definitely be part of any professional plumber’s tool kit. It is cheap and cheerful and it can definitely save your day!
As a plumber you will need a wide variety of tools in order to do your job properly. Spanners are one of the most useful ones. They come in different varieties and sizes, depending on the job at hand. Immersion heater spanners are often used to deal with electric immersion heathers that need to be screwed to the top of side of a hot water cylinder. They have very large nuts, often around 89mm, hence the need of a very large spanner in order to tighten or loosen the nuts. Even if you use largest adjustable spanner you can find, it will not be large enough and this is where the immersion heater spanner comes in. They can be purchased rather cheaply but can also be hired if needed.
However, the most useful type of spanner is probably the adjustable spanner. These spanners are always the best choice for doing up and undoing nuts as using pliers and various gripping wrenches will not only damage the nuts you are working on but can also cause damage to the tool itself. When it comes to adjustable spanners you normally put them in of the three main categories: auto-pattern, crescent pattern and girder pattern spanners.
Another common type of spanners, and a type that is very handy for a plumber, is the open-ended spanner. These are often used for compression joints if you can fit the right size spanner with the right size joint. In these cases you will normally need two open-ended spanners: one for the actual nut and one to prevent the fitting from turning. The bath (or basin) spanner is another useful spanner and these are used when dealing with the nuts and joints that hold the taps in place under baths. The basin wrench falls under this category as well and this tool allows you to get into the most inaccessible corners underneath the bath.
For the novice plumber is might seem like there are a ridiculous high number of spanners on the market and it can be difficult to know what to get. One solution to this can be the universal plumbing spanners that are now available. They will allow you to deal with most sizes and this includes dealing with angled basin-nut jaws. Many plumbers find this a very useful and cost-effective tool, especially if you are only just starting up. Personally, I think you can never have too many spanners and the only type of spanners you will most likely never use in plumbing are ring spanners and socket spanners.
The pipe most commonly used in plumbing is copper pipes and this is not easy to bend by hand. If you try to bend it, not only is it very tough but the pipe is likely to distort when being bent. It is therefore useful to use a bending spring. The bending spring is slid inside the pipe in order to support it as it is being bent, quite likely over your knee. These bending springs have a loop on one side in order to be easily pulled out from the pipe once it has been bent. They come in different sizes in order to fit different pipe. However, if you have a lot of pipe to bend or if you want to bend something like stainless steel or a thicker copper pipe, say over 28mm, which cannot be bent by hand, the best option is to use a bending machine and these can be hired rather than purchased. Bending machines can normally deal with two or three different sizes of pipe and it will make your work a lot easier.
Blowlamps are used for soldered capillary fittings and nowadays these are much safer than the old-school paraffin type. The ones fitted on to a disposable cartridge are perfectly adequate for most types of jobs or otherwise a blowtorch connected via a hose to a gas cylinder can be used. This is a more expensive alternative but the torch itself is lighter and easier to handle than a blowlamp. Not to mention the risk of running out of gas halfway through a job. Even though you’ll have to carry the cylinder with you, the positive thing is that a blowtorch allows you to use it upside down in case you need to get under a pipe or fitting one. It is not advisable to use a cartridge-fed blowlamp upside down as it will cause flares. Another use of a blowlamp or blowtorch is when a nut seems stuck to its fitting, often due to dried up jointing compound. By applying gentle heath to the nut, it can sometimes loosen it. Just make sure not to use your blowlamp to close to ceramic basins, plastic baths or pressed steel as it can cause further damage. If you need to unfreeze pipes or nuts close to these materials, it might be better to use a hair-dryer or a hot-air gun on a low setting. For safety, make sure to always have a fire extinguisher close by if you do choose to work with a blowlamp.
The most important part to remember for the home plumber regarding the ‘Gas Safety Regulations (Installation and Use)’ is that it is illegal for anyone to carry out any types of work regarding gas fittings if they are not competent to do so. Basically what this means is that if would be very, very stupid to attempt to do your own gas fitting. A lot of plumbers and some other contractors points out that there are many similar techniques with gas fitting and those regarding hot and cold water plumbing BUT if anything goes wrong, any potential mistakes can be so much more serious, not to mention the consequences of you getting found out as this holds hefty fines. Always look for a qualified gas fitter when planning any work involving gas. These can easily be found on the CORGI register (Council for Registered Gas Installers).
Contrary to belief, there are no legal restrictions for anyone carrying out their own electrical repairs and/or alterations – with the exception of Scotland. In Scotland, any electrical wiring is part of the Scottish Building Regulations. Always remember that local electricity companies do have the right to inspect and test any electrical work they suspect to be unsafe and they can also refuse a supply if it comes to it.
The ‘IEE Wiring Regulations’ or the ‘Requirements for Electrical Installations, are generally thought of as a kind of a bible for many electricians. It was produced by the Institution of Electrical Engineers and British Standard (BS 7671). The most current edition which was first published in 1991 is actually its sixteenth edition but just as with the Water and Building Regulations, changes to the Wiring Regulations are intended for new installations and is not retrospective. Keeping in mind that any substantial additions and/or alterations to the wiring of a house might mean making changes to an already existing installation.
There’s a useful book called ‘The Which? Book of Wiring and Lighting’ which not only explains the Regulations but also provides illustrated instructions on how to deal with most common household wiring tasks. Obviously, if you’re still unsure whether you should tackle it yourself, you can always use a qualified electrician. Just make sure to use one that’s a member of the Electrical Contractors Association or ECA for short. Alternatively, one who’s on the roll of the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC).
This website is aimed at the home owners who want to carry out the majority of their own plumbing but lack the knowledge and indeed, confidence to do so. This website will stay clear from promoting products or pushing marketing material for companies or organisations. It is here, solely to supply knowledge to those who want to learn. There are many companies in my home town of Liverpool who think nothing of promoting their products online, through financial incentives supplied to bloggers.
This website will act as your guide to tools and techniques needed for home plumbing and many other plumbing jobs you may encounter in day to day life, including the fitting of central heating systems. Plumbing clearly involves a number of skills, but since lead is no longer used and most fittings can be easily assembled and pushed together, it has become a lot easier to take on this kind of work. The growth of online suppliers, and of DIY superstores that stock every tool, material and fitting imaginable, buying has become a lot less daunting for the DIY enthusiast. Make no bones about it, plumbing can be physically very demanding. But at the same time, many tasks require a certain degree of precision, with the occasional bit of brawn, such as untightening tough nuts, making holes in masonry materials or basic demolition.
There will be a series of articles on this website, with the first few articles focused on the tools required to do the jobs at hand. Also the materials and fixtures required to complete these tasks in a successful manner. The articles after that will focus on the four main systems within a house:
Cold water supply.
Hot water supply.
The jobs necessary to maintain or replace each one of these systems will be covered, with step-by-step guidelines supplied where possible. Following that I will go from room to room, looking at the different plumbing jobs associated with each room. Some rooms, such as the kitchen or bathroom, require more attention than others. I will also venture outside the house, into the garden and look at when needs to be addressed from a plumbing standpoint in that area of the homestead.
This website will give an extensive amount of information that you will most likely not find on other DIY websites. I will also talk more about me and my humble beginnings in Merseyside and how I went on to become an expert plumber.