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DIY Plumbing Tips

Updated on August 17, 2015

You can save money and avoid delays by making minor plumbing repairs yourself.

Jobs that a home owner or apartment dweller can do with a few basic tools include: repairing water faucets and valves, repairing leaks in pipes and tanks, thawing frozen pipes, repairing toilets and cleaning clogged drains. Extensive plumbing repairs or alterations in the plumbing system usually require authorization from local authorities and possible inspection of the completed work. Therefore, such work should be done by a qualified licensed plumber.

Photo by leovdworp

Tools and Spare Parts

Basic tools that you should have on hand to make simple plumbing repairs include:

  • wrenches - including pipe wrenches in a range of sizes to fit the pipe, fittings, equipment and appliances in the system,
  • screwdrivers - in a range of sizes to fit the faucets, valves and other parts of the system,
  • ball peen hammer - or a 12 or 16 oz. claw hammer,
  • rubber force cup (plunger or plumber's friend),
  • cold chisel and center punch,
  • clean out auger (snake),
  • friction tape,
  • adjustable pliers,
  • faucet washers and packing,
  • a few feet of pipe strap.

Additional Tools

Additional tools required for more extensive plumbing repairs may be rented if needed. These include:

  • set of pipe threading dies and stocks,
  • hack saw and blades - blades should have 32 teeth per inch,
  • pipe cutter - roller type,
  • tapered reamer or half-round file, carpenter's brace,
  • set of wood bits,
  • gasoline blowtorch,
  • copper tube cutter with reamer (if you have copper tubing).


Always use the proper size wrench or screwdriver. Do not use pipe wrenches on nuts with flat surfaces, use an adjustable or open-end wrench.

Do not use pipe wrenches on polished-surface tubings or fittings such as found on plumbing fixtures, use a strap wrench.

Tight nuts or fittings can sometimes be loosened by tapping lightly with a hammer or mallet.

Water Supply

The plumbing of a residence includes pipes for distributing the water supply, fixtures for using water, and drainage pipes for removing waste water and sewage, together with fittings and accessories of various kinds.

Each part of a plumbing system is designed for a specific purpose and should be used only for that purpose.

Grease or refuse should not be thrown into toilet bowls, sinks, or lavatories; faucets should be tightly closed when not in use; and waste pipes should be flushed frequently with hot water to keep them in good working order.

Trouble and unnecessary expense will be avoided by promptly repairing a leaky faucet, or by cleaning out a fixture drain at the first signs of clogging. If difficulty involving the pipes arises, a plumber should be called in.

Shutting Off Water

The flow of water in a house is controlled by means of stopcocks or shut-off valves in the pipes. To shut off the main supply of water, as it enters the house, it is necessary to close the wall cock or valve which is usually in the main pipe in the basement. This cock may have a handle, or a wrench may be needed to turn it. It may be of the ground-key type with a small hole bored in its side for draining the pipes after the water is shut off, or it may be a compression-stop type with a cap nut covering the drain opening. In either case, this opening should be closed when the water is turned off, for, if not closed, a stream of water will shoot from the hole with considerable force.

Where means have not been provided for shutting off a drain opening, a small wooden peg driven into it will temporarily stop the flow of water until the pressure is relieved by draining the pipes through the faucets.

If a house is left vacant during the winter months, it is safest to have the water shut off at the curb cock to prevent freezing between the cellar wall and the main shut-off or wall cock.

Separate shut-off cocks are sometimes provided below the sink, lavatory, toilet, or other fixtures for convenience when repairs are to be made, so that the flow of water may be cut off from any one fixture without disturbing the flow to the other parts of the system. It is important that all members of the family know where these various shut-offs are located, especially for use in cases of emergency.

Or do you call in a tradesman?

Do you do the small plumbing jobs around the house?

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