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Plumbing tools

How to Use These 5 Common Plumbing Tools

Whether you live in an apartment in Milwaukee or a five-bedroom house in the suburbs, one thing will always remain true about homes — they’re going to experience leaks and plumbing problems. Luckily, knowing how to use just a few of these common tools can help prevent a small problem from becoming a big one.

1. Basin Wrench

While a basin wrench might not be as common as pliers, it’s something every homeowner should have in their toolbox, especially if they plan on remodeling their bathroom or removing a faucet any time soon.

How to use a basin wrench:

  1. Position the head of the wrench so that it’s perpendicular to the shaft.

  2. If you want to loosen an object, place the opening of the claw head to the right and turn it counterclockwise.

  3. If you want to tighten something, place the opening of the claw head to the left and turn it clockwise.

2. Pipe Wrench

From nuts and bolts to pipes, a wrench is a toolkit necessity.

How to use a straight pipe wrench:

  1. Because you never want to damage your pipes, it’s important to choose a wrench that’s the right jaw size for your project. Once you’ve found the right wrench, place its jaw around the bolt or pipe you want to tighten or loosen.

  2. You always want to position the wrench in a way that you have to pull, not push, it to accomplish your goal.

  3. If you’re dealing with an especially stubborn wrench, never hit it with a hammer. Instead, apply a little bit of oil or grease to the bolt.

3. Toilet Plunger

Unlike sink plungers, toilet plungers have a lip at the bottom of their suction cup that helps them better fit in a toilet. Though it probably goes without saying, it’s important to have separate toilet and sink plungers.

How to use a toilet plunger:

  1. While it may be tempting to attack a clog with the mighty force of an annoyed homeowner, start off with a few gentle plunges. If your first plunge is too aggressive, you’ll force air out around the seal and quickly find yourself standing in a pool of toilet water.

  2. Once you’ve (gently) forced the air out of your plunger’s cup, you can start plunging a bit more vigorously. Remember to be patient, since it can sometimes take between 15 and 20 pumps to dislodge a clog.

  3. Always keep enough water in your bowl so that the plunger stays covered.

4. Hand Auger

More often called a plumbing snake, this hand-cranked tool helps eliminate clogs from tubs, showers, sinks, and most any other drain. Snakes should only be used after a plunger has failed to do the job.

How to use a hand auger:

  1. Using a snake can get a little messy, so while you may be hoping for the best, plan for the worst. Slide on rubber rain boots and rubber gloves before diving into the problem (that may have been a poor choice of words...).

  2. Unscrew the wing nut at the base of the snake and gently move it down the drain you’re trying to unclog.

  3. Once the snake is entirely through the pipe, tighten the wing nut you previously unscrewed and slowly crank the handle so that the snake begins retracting.

5. Slip-Joint Pliers

Capable of gripping, twisting, pulling, and even cutting, pliers can get almost any job done. Unlike wrenches, pliers should be used for more simple jobs.

How to use pliers:

  1. Position the pliers so that whether you are tightening or loosening something, the larger jaw follows the smaller jaw as it turns.

  2. Never use pliers as a hammer, since too much pressure can cause them to crack. They should also be kept away from extreme heat, meaning they shouldn't be left on radiators or used alongside a blowtorch.

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