If you live in a house for long enough, eventually a pipe will leak, a sink will clog, or a toilet will overflow. It's just a fact of life. And for most people, calling a plumber every time a minor leak or clog arises just isn't realistic. It's more cost effective to be able to solve small plumbing problems yourself. Even if you can only temporarily fix the problem, you may save yourself some money – plumbers typically charge an hourly rate with a one or two hour minimum for small jobs. You'll get more bang for your buck if you call a plumber when you have several small jobs that need to be done, rather than paying the whole hourly rate for a job that takes 15 minutes.
But in order to fix a plumbing problem yourself, you need the right tools. Take a look at a few plumbing tools that every homeowner should have on hand.
It probably goes without saying that you need a plunger in the house. In fact, you probably have one. But do you have two? Because there are two different types of plungers, and the truth is, you really need both.
The first type of plunger is a cup plunger. It's the one that most people are familiar with, and you may have one sitting next to your toilet right now. But the shallow cup plunger actually isn't the best way to plunge your toilet. The cup plunger is meant for sinks and shower drains – flat surfaces where the cup can go right over the drain hole and form a tight seal.
What you need for the toilet is a flange plunger. Rather than being cup shaped, the flange plunger is bell shaped. This shape allows you to fit the plunger into the bottom of the toilet to create a tight seal. If you've been trying to unclog your toilet with a cup plunger, you'll be amazed at how quick and easy it is once you have a flange plunger to work with.
You may know this tool as a plumber's snake or a drain snake. When the plunger won't do the trick, the hand auger is the backup tool. It's a long length of flexible steel cable that will fit down inside any drain and twist and turn through the pipes until you find the obstruction that's clogging your toilet.
Once you hit the obstruction, you can use the hand auger to break up the clog. All that you have to do is let out a little excess cable, tighten the screw to hold the cable still, and push from your end until the cable is able to move freely again.
Pipe epoxy is your quick and easy solution to a leaking pipe, at least until you can either get a plumber to the house or replace the pipe yourself. Pipe epoxy isn't meant to be a permanent solution for a leak, but it will buy you some time, and it does create a pretty tight seal.
Epoxy can be used on either wet or dry surfaces, and it works on all kinds of pipe materials, from PVC to copper. It also works on tubing, so if it's the water tubes to your washing machine that are leaking, you can temporarily fix that problem too.
Sometimes all that you need to do to stop a leak in its tracks is tighten a nut that's come loose. But you can be sure that that nut is located under the sink, behind a bunch of pipes, and situated at an odd angle.
That's where the pipe wrench comes in. This oddly shaped tool is designed specifically to reach those hard to reach places, and to grip tightly enough to move even the most stubborn hardware.
These few tools won't make you into a licensed plumber, but they will help you keep your home running smoothly. If you run into a problem that you can't fix or temporarily stop with one of these tools, then you'll know that it's time to call in the professionals to get more help.