In a plumbing emergency, many people’s first response is to contact a plumber immediately. But emergencies don’t always happen during the week, at a reasonable time, and on non-holidays. Sometimes it’s impossible to get a plumber, especially when you need one the most.
If a homeowner does not have any way of holding off damage until a plumber can get there, the consequences can be catastrophic. Of course, even if you can raise a plumber, the services will cost you some money—and probably lots of it; sewer repair isn’t cheap!
For the above reasons, a wise homeowner will purchase plumbing equipment and have it readily available in the home, even if he or she is not planning to do any heavy-duty plumbing work. It’s primarily a matter of common sense to have certain essential tools at one’s disposal … just in case a toilet or sink gets clogged, or some other common plumbing incident occurs.
Having the tools also enables you to do preventive maintenance on your home plumbing system and appliances, which will help you avoid bigger issues in the future—usually at the most inconvenient time possible.
Which tools are the right tools?
Though many people might agree it’s important to have plumbing tools on hand, without intimate knowledge of plumbing work it can be difficult to decide which tools to buy. In fact, some people get so anxious about what constitutes the right basic tools, that they spend a lot of money for an array of implements they will never use. Some, on the other hand, decide to forgo the entire process altogether, not buy any tools, and trust to fate.
For those just getting started, these three tools are must-haves:
1. Flange Plunger
Also known as a ball plunger, the flange plunger has a shape designed specifically for unclogging toilets. Though many people assume the more common “cup plunger” (shaped like a cup or bowl) is perfectly fine for unclogging their toilets, the cup plunger is actually designed primarily for unclogging sinks and bathtubs.
The flange plunger’s design is optimized to seal the opening at the bottom of a toilet bowl and create a vacuum effect that is particularly effective for dislodging troublesome clogs. To use it, alternately push down and pull up the stick attached to the plunger.
2. Adjustable Pipe Wrench
Probably the most recognizable plumbing tool of all, the adjustable pipe wrench is designed to grip round objects of varying sizes. (Pipes are round—surprise!) The serrated jaws on this tool allow it to keep a firm grip once it has been tightened. Its handle and strength of hold provide excellent leverage.
People need to be careful about how tightly they close one of these wrenches, however, because its sharp teeth also make it notorious for leaving scratches and other marks on pipes after it’s been applied to them, how ever useful in general drain and sewer repair.
Usually, an adjustable pipe wrench is used to open up pipes in order to remove clogs, and to tighten joins. Home handy-persons who plan on opening up a pipe should always be sure they have turned off the water supply first, though … unless they want a big, wet mess on their hands.
3. Teflon Tape
Definitely the least expensive plumbing implement a homeowner will ever have to purchase, Teflon tape is an invaluable tool to have on hand. It is a thin white tape that can be used to seal off leakage occurring at pipe connections, and it is typically sold in rolls at any hardware store.
Alternate uses for Teflon tape can include preventing air leaks that develop in dryer connectors or fixing the seals on leaky shower heads. Note that Teflon tape should never be used to fix any leaks that involve gases other than air.