Home Power Tools

Home Plumbing Basics: Essential Tools for Addressing Common Water Issues

18 min read

Home Plumbing Top Tools

Required Tools Descriptions
Plunger A plunger helps eliminate clogs in sinks and toilets.
Snake A snake is used to remove blockages in drains.
Wrench This tool is used to tighten or loosen connections.
Pipe Cutter A pipe cutter helps to trim pipes flush.
Plumbers Tape Plumbers tape seals threads on connections.

hand woman touching kitchen sink w water

Knowing the Basics of Plumbing

Having basic knowledge of plumbing is essential for any homeowner.

In order to address common water issues, homeowners need to know the basics of plumbing.

Knowing the basics means understanding the fundamentals of how the plumbing system in your home works.

This includes identifying the different types of pipes and fittings, as well as being familiar with the different tools typically used in plumbing.

It also helps to know the proper procedures for correcting common water issues.

Being knowledgeable about the basic systems in your home can save time and energy in addressing common water issues.

Safety Precautions in Plumbing

Being Careful

When dealing with plumbing issues, always take safety precautions.

Wear protective clothing, such as coveralls, gloves, and safety glasses to protect yourself from hazardous materials.

Make sure to switch off the power to any electrical appliances and outlets before starting any work with water.

Unplug all electrical devices, such as computers, televisions, and other electronics, to avoid the risk of electric shock.

Always bear in mind that water and electricity can be very dangerous when combined! Never attempt to repair water lines without shutting off the main water supply first.

The main shut-off valve can usually be found near the main water line.

Take all necessary measures to avoid accidental leaks, flooding, or any other kind of water damage.

Basic Plumbing Tools

Pipe wrenches and adjustable pliers

Pipe wrenches and adjustable pliers are essential tools for home plumbing jobs.

Pipe wrenches help tighten and loosen large diameter pipes, while adjustable pliers help with small, hard-to-reach pipes.

Make sure to wear protective gloves when using pipe wrenches or adjustable pliers.

Both tools should be used carefully to ensure no damage is done to the plumbing system.

Use the right size wrench for the job—trying to use something too large can damage the pipe.

Adjustable pliers are great for reaching into tight spaces and small pipes.

Be extra careful with these since they can be sharp.

When you’re done, make sure to store both tools in the right place so you don’t have to go searching for them next time.

Pipe cutter and tubing cutter

Pipe cutters and tubing cutters are essential for home plumbing projects.

Pipe cutters are used to cut copper or plastic piping, while tubing cutters are used to cut through rubber or PVC.

They have sharp blades that work quickly, allowing you to cut through the pipes cleanly and effectively.

There are also adjustable and ratcheting cutters, which give you precise and clean cuts no matter what kind of pipe or tubing you’re cutting.

These tools make plumbing jobs easier, so make sure you have them in your tool kit.

Plunger and drain snake

A plunger and drain snake are must-haves for any home plumbing toolkit.

Plungers are great for clearing clogs, as they force air and water through the pipes to free up a blockage.

Drain snakes, which are long metal cables with a corkscrew-like tip, help remove clogs and debris from pipes.

To use them, simply insert the tip into the drain and the turn the crank handle.

After a few minutes of rotating the handle, the clog will be loosened and you can pull it out.

Having a plunger and drain snake handy can help address common water issues quickly and easily.

Teflon tape and pipe dope

Teflon tape and pipe dope are two must-have plumbing items for basic water repair.

Tefflon tape helps create a watertight seal between two pipes and can help prevent leaks.

Pipe dope is a lubricating substance that helps protect threads from corrosion and seals them to prevent leaks.

Both teflon tape and pipe dope can help extend the life of your plumbing system.

When using these tools, be sure to apply them to the pipe threads before you connect them, using enough to form a good seal without blocking the pipe.

Lastly, don’t forget to wear gloves when handling plumbing tools to keep your hands clean.

Pipe wrench and basin wrench

Pipe wrenches and basin wrenches are essential tools for plumbing.

Pipe wrenches are used for gripping and turning pipes.

They have adjustable jaws that can fit different sizes of pipes.

Basins wrenches are used for loosening and tightening nuts and bolts in narrow areas such as under sinks.

The long handles give you more leverage and make it easier to get at tight areas.

Both of these tools are essential in many plumbing projects and should always be part of your tool collection.

Fixing Common Leaks

Identifying common water leaks

It’s important to identify common water leaks.

A dripping faucet, broken pipe, or faulty water heater can mean big problems for your home.

To find clues, look for damp spots on the walls and ceilings, musty smells coming from drains, and changes in your water bill.

Check around pipes and underneath fixtures too.

If you hear or see something that doesn’t look right, you might have a leak.

Get it fixed sooner than later before any more water is wasted.

Repairing dripping faucets and leaky pipes

Drip, drip, drip…

It’s never fun to notice you have a faucet or pipe issue.

But it’s something that can affordably and easily be fixed.

Repairing dripping faucets or leaky pipes involves a few steps.

Start by figuring out if the issue is coming from the faucet or the pipe.

Then, locate the part that needs replacing.

You may need to shut off the flow of water first.

You may need some basic tools like wrenches, pliers, and a screwdriver.

Then, just replace the old part with a new one to get it working properly again.

All done!

Replacing damaged pipe

Damaged pipes are common and can lead to bigger plumbing issues if left unresolved.

Fixing these problems means finding and removing the damaged sections and replacing with new ones.

If the damaged section is part of the larger pipe, the entire piece needs to be cut out.

Depending on the location, larger replacement sections can be threaded or glued together.

Any fittings, valves, or connectors also need replacing.

Be sure to use the same materials for replacements.

Taking out the old section and installing the new can help restore your home plumbing and avoid future water problems.


Sealing up leaks is a crucial part of any plumbing repair.

Teflon tape and pipe dope are often used to patch common leaks.

Teflon tape is a thin, wide strip of tape that is wrapped around threads on pipes with any gaps and gaps between pipes.

Pipe dope is a sealant made of petroleum compounds spilled around the threads before putting pipes together.

Make sure to get the right stuff for the job and follow all instructions, then wrap Teflon tape and pipe dope around the connection to patch the leak.

Unclogging Drains and Toilets

Unclogging sinks, showers, and tubs

Sinks, showers, and tubs sometimes get clogged up, making it difficult for the water to drain properly.

To unclog these fixtures, you can use a plunger or a plumbing snake.

If you have a plunger, try plugging the drain with the rubber cup and gently pumping the plunger until the obstruction is cleared away.

For tougher clogs, try using a plumbing snake.

Insert the snake into the drain and twist it back and forth until the object creating the clog is dislodged.

Be gentle and patient, and soon enough the water should be draining freely again.

Clearing blockages in toilet drains

Toilet drains can get blocked, making it difficult to flush.

To clear these blockages, you need to make sure the water valve to the toilet is shut off.

Next, use a plunger to try and remove the blockage.

Once any water has been removed, use a toilet auger to clear out the pipe, pushing the blockage up and out of the pipe.

If the blockage doesn’t come out, use a wire coat hanger to poke into the drain and try and dislodge the obstruction.

With these steps, you can clear most blockages in toilet drains.

Plungers and drain snakes

Plungers and drain snakes are great tools for unclogging drains and toilets.

To use a plunger, place it over the drain then move it up and down in a pumping motion until the clog is gone.

If that doesn’t work, try a drain snake.

Insert the snake into the toilet or drain and turn the crank until the clog is loosened.

Keep turning the crank until the clog is free.

With either tool, you should be able to get rid of the clog and get things flowing again.

Repairing Running Toilets


To diagnose a running toilet, start by checking the water level.

If the water is higher than normal, you may need to adjust the float.

Next, check the flapper for any signs of damage or debris.

If it looks okay, then the issue may be with the fill valve.

Open the tank and check the chain that connects the flush lever with the flapper - it may be loose.

If it’s kinked, cut the kink and replace the chain with a new one.

Finally, flush the toilet and see if the running water stops.

If it doesn’t, it could be a faulty flush valve or a disconnected or damaged refill tube.

Problems with the Flapper Valve

When a toilet is running, the flapper valve usually needs to be adjusted or replaced.

To fix a flapper valve, start by checking for debris or damage.

Next, use pliers to loosen the chain connecting the flush handle and the flapper, and adjust the length of the handle.

If the flapper is broken or damaged, then it’s time to replace it.

To do this, shut off the water supply, remove the old flapper, and install the new one.

Make sure the new flapper is correctly aligned and secure it in place.

Lastly, put the chain back in place, turn the water back on, and test the flapper valve.

Fill Valve and Float Assembly

When repairing a running toilet, check the fill valve and float assembly.

If the water in the tank won’t shut off, the fill valve or float assembly could be the problem.

Check to see if the float is stuck or needs adjustment.

Then make sure the fill valve isn’t stuck open.

If needed, tighten the fill valve to stop the flow of water.

You may need to replace the float if it is not working correctly.

To fix this, shut off the water supply, take apart the valve, and replace the float.

Once you have the new float in place, open the water supply and test the flush.

Dealing with Low Water Pressure

Identifying the Issues

Low water pressure can have a variety of causes.

To pinpoint the problem, start by turning off water to any appliances which are connected to the plumbing system, like dishwashers and washing machines.

Then, check the spigots throughout the house to find out if the pressure is low in all of them or just one.

If it’s just one, the issue might only be localized.

It’s also possible for the problem to be coming from the main water supply line.

If this is the case, you’ll need to contact the city’s water department.

By diagnosing the issue, you’ll be able to address it quickly and avoid bigger problems down the line.

Faucet Aerators

Faucet aerators can get clogged up with dirt and debris.

To clear the clog, you can unscrew the aerator and soak it in a bowl of white vinegar.

Let it sit for several hours before rinsing it off with water.

If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace the aerator altogether.

When replacing it, make sure to buy the right size, since different faucets have different sized aerators.

Once you have the new one, just unscrew the old one and replace it with the new one.

And that’s all there is to it!

Water Supply Valves

Water supply valves are important for controlling water pressure.

If there is a sudden drop in water pressure, you may want to check the valves first, before diagnosing and fixing any other issues.

Make sure all your water valves are in the “on” position, as turning them off can result in lower water pressure.

To reset the system, turn off all valves and then, one by one, slowly open the valves in the order that the water flows through your home.

This can help restore the pressure in your pipes to normal.

Replacing Plumbing Fixtures

Faucets and Showerheads

When replacing faucets and showerheads, you’ll need a wrench and a screwdriver.

Remove the nut or screw that holds the faucet in place.

Pull the old faucet off the sink and get the new one ready.

If you have a washer and gasket to replace, put new ones on the new faucet.

The new faucet should be lined up in the same spot as the old one.

Secure the new faucet with new nuts or screws.

For showerheads, unscrew it from the shower pipe.

Make sure the new one has gaskets and washers.

Put the new showerhead on the pipe and tighten it with a wrench.

That’s it - you are done!

Doing Upgrades

When doing upgrades to your toilet, it’s important to replace toilet components when needed.

Consider parts like the toilet tank lid, toilet flush handle, flapper valve, wax ring, and toilet fill valve.

All these parts can wear out or corrode over time, and you should make sure they’re in good shape.

Replacing them is easy and relatively inexpensive.

If you need help picking out the right replacement parts, your local home improvement store or plumber should be able to recommend the appropriate ones for your toilet model.

New Installs

If you need a new sink or plumbing fixture, the process is straightforward.

Begin by turning off the water supply to the area, then disconnect the existing fixture.

Hold the new fixture in place and connect the supply lines, then attach the mounting hardware.

Use a wrench or pliers to hand-tighten all connections, then turn the water back on and test for leaks.

Make sure the water is flowing freely, then you’re ready to go!

Caulking and Sealing

Caulking and sealing should be done after the fixtures are installed for a watertight fit.

Make sure to use the right kind of caulk for the material - silicone caulk works great on all surfaces, and is easy to apply.

Be sure to apply it along with any joints or connections to form a complete seal.

If any part of the seal is missing, water could easily seep in and cause issues.

Once finished, let the caulk fully dry, otherwise it won’t be effective.

This ensures a watertight fit that will last for years to come.

Handling Emergency Shut-Offs

Main water shut-off valve

The main water shut-off valve is an important part of your home plumbing system.

It is located near where the main water line enters the house.

In many homes, it can be found in the basement, or near a toilet or sink outside.

To use the valve, turn it clockwise to shut off the water, and counterclockwise to turn it back on.

Knowing where your main water shut-off valve is, and how to use it, can help you address plumbing problems you may have quickly and easily.

Turning off water

Turning off water to fixtures or appliances is important in any plumbing emergency.

For sinks, toilets, and showers, make sure to locate the shut-off valve, usually underneath the fixture.

Safety glasses should be worn when possible.

Before turning off the main valve, also make sure to turn off all appliances, like dishwashers and washing machines.

Shut-off valves located near these appliances can help.

For faucets, find the stem in the handle and turn it in a clockwise direction.

Test the water to make sure it has been turned off correctly.

In a major emergency, such as a burst pipe, turn off the main water valve.

Again, safety glasses are recommended.

Emergency shut-off procedures

When you have a major leak or burst pipe, it’s important to shut off the water supply quickly.

First, find your home’s main shut-off valve, usually located near the water meter.

This is typically a round wheel-like valve that can be turned either clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Once you’ve found it, use a wrench to turn it in a clockwise direction until the water stops flowing.

If you don’t have a wrench, you can use an adjustable pliers or a large pliers.

After the water has been shut off, contact a plumber who can assess the situation and perform any necessary repairs.

This process should be done as quickly as possible to minimize damage and avoid any further hazards.

Your plumbing layout

Having the layout of your home’s plumbing system can be a lifesaver in an emergency shut-off situation.

Knowing what pipes run to which areas in the house can help you quickly identify and shut the water off in one particular area.

Knowing the layout can help you determine what tools you need.

It can even help you troubleshoot issues more easily.

So, if you don’t already know it, you should take the time to figure out the layout of your plumbing.

It is important for any homeowner to know and understand the plumbing system of their home in order to handle emergency shut-off situations efficiently and quickly.

Dealing with Frozen Pipes

Identifying frozen and burst pipes

Pipes can freeze in cold weather, so it’s important to know how to recognize frozen pipes.

They usually have frosty spots on them and may be bulging or discolored.

You might also hear a gurgling sound, as trapped water tries to escape.

If your pipes are frozen, you need to act fast or they’ll burst! To prevent pipes from bursting, turn off the main valve, open the faucets, and wrap insulation around the pipes in question.

As a bonus, insulation can also keep your energy bill down during cold spells!

Thawing frozen pipes

When your pipes freeze, you need to thaw them out correctly.

Be sure to start with the faucet nearest the frozen pipe.

Open it up to allow the water to slowly flow and escape.

Then, apply a heat source to the frozen area.

This could be a hairdryer, heat lamp, or even a portable heater.

Make sure to move it around to heat it evenly.

When the ice thaws, the water should start to flow.

After it’s started, keep the faucets running while you check the rest of your pipes.

If you notice other areas that have frozen, you can repeat the process.

With a little patience, your pipes will be thawed and running smoothly.

Repairing and replacing

It’s important to remember that if a pipe is beyond repair, you need to replace it as soon as possible.

If the pipe hasn’t burst yet, figure out how to repair and reinforce the pipe to prevent a split or rupture.

Wear protective gear - gloves, a face mask and eye protection - when working with pipes, especially if you plan on replacing pipes.

Make sure to turn off the water main, which should be clearly marked.

If you’re uncertain, you might call a professional plumber.

For most repairs or replacement projects, you’ll need some supplies like pipe wrench, saw and fittings.

Once done, turn the main water back on slowly and test the connection for any leaks.

Insulating pipes

Insulate your pipes for winter protection with foam insulation or thermostatic wrap.

Cut the insulation to fit snugly around your pipe.

If you’re insulating hot water pipes, be sure to use heat resistant insulation to protect against any damage.

Make sure that any cracks in your pipe or in the walls of your home are covered first.

It’s even better to fill any gaps with foam filler if any exist.

Seal up any gaps with duct tape after you’ve insulated the pipe.

If needed, use steel straps to reinforce the insulation and make sure it stays in place.

Doing this will help you avoid the cost and time of dealing with frozen pipes.


Plumbing’s Essential Tools

The right tools are essential for any plumbing job.

Plumbers use a variety of tools, including wrenches, adjustable pliers, and varying sizes of screwdrivers.

Plunger and auger are important devices for unclogging drains.Stopcocks are a must for turning off the water in an emergency, and a pipe wrench is essential for cutting and turning pipes.

Drain cleaner and a bucket or pan are useful for trapping water when it begins to leak.

And, finally, a tap spanner is needed for connecting and disconnecting taps from the supply pipes.

Having the right tools on hand when a plumbing emergency occurs will save time, money, and help get your home running smoothly again.

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