Must-Have Tools for Residential Service Plumbing

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Investing in tools that can be used to service and repair basic residential plumbing systems is a great place to start when you are beginning your plumbing career.

These tools will help you not only repair common problems, but also allow you to diagnose more serious issues. After all, as most plumbers know, a toilet that’s “not working” could be caused by many things: From a float that needs to be replaced in minutes to a sewer line that requires extensive repairs over several days.  

The most common residential service calls fall into several categories: repair, replace, renovate. For example, you may be asked to repair pipe blockages in sinks, toilets and tubs; replace or repair a hot water tank; change out a sink or faucet for cosmetic reasons; investigate a burst pipe or water leak. The list goes on. 

While this list is extensive, many tools can cover multiple needs. Here are some recommendations:

  • Drain cleaners designed for sinks, toilets and bathtubs. Generally, drain cleaners that can clear up to 4-inch lines are ideal for residential plumbing systems. 
  • Compact press tools. A press tool for 1/2-inch to 2-inch pipe is a good initial investment. As your customer footprint expands so can the number of attachments in your toolbox.
  • Handheld inspection cameras. Utilizing a handheld model will allow you to get into tight spaces under sinks, behind water heaters, etc. and offer more portability than larger-sized models. 
  • Compact threading machines. In residential settings the space you have to thread a pipe may be small, making a compact machine preferable to larger-sized models. 
  • Wet/dry vacs, reciprocating saws, pen lights. Having a good wet/dry vac helps to clean up your work area and give a professional appearance to your work. With a reciprocating saw you can get through pipes, studs or anything else you may need to get the job done. Finally, you need a pen light, or any other light, that helps you see in those darker areas.
  • Hand tools. A straight pipe wrench, basin wrench, close-quarters tubing cutter and pliers will let you work with pipe in a variety of residential settings, including tight spaces under sinks and behind water heaters. 

Residential jobs typically have smaller-sized supply lines and drainlines when compared to commercial environments. The types of materials used in or on the structures can vary depending on a home’s age and style. As a result, you will want to look for these key features in tools: 

  • Tools that can be used on multiple types of piping or tubing. The home’s plumbing could include copper tubing, PEX supply lines or cast iron drains. Make sure that the tools you have can accommodate the most common building materials used in your area.
  • Tools that get the job done quickly and effectively. A tool designed for specific jobs makes your life easier and will reduce the overall mess. Do some research or ask a seasoned veteran what tools are best for the jobs you are likely to encounter based on your typical customer.
  • Tools that can be transported without breaking your back. Residential jobs may require you to go up or down stairs, fold yourself into crawl spaces or access tight mechanical closets. Make sure that the tools you select are compact enough to fit into the areas you go. 

Building your toolbox with these multipurpose tools will help lay a solid foundation for success as you experience the rewards of solving your customers’ residential plumbing problems. Investing in the best quality you can afford will help ensure many of these will be with you your entire career and possibly pass down to the next generation.


About the Author: Kelsey David is a product specialist for RIDGID, a part of Emerson’s professional tools portfolio that also includes the Greenlee brand. RIDGID is a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 100 countries. Learn more at RIDGID.com.



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