Essential plumber’s tool kit

All you need to fix leaks, clogs and other plumbing disasters

By Gary Rudy

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Plastic pipe repair

Tools required: Hacksaw, white grease marker, ABS cement, torpedo level, extra lengths of ABS pipe and various fittings, including elbows and P-trap.

Technique: ABS pipe is easy to work with and repair. ABS cement is applied to the areas to be joined, and after the pieces are brought together, the surfaces of the plastic elements melt and fuse together. Although this process is not difficult, it must be done correctly to prevent leaks. Measure and then mark the pipe with a white grease pencil, which will show up easily on the surface of the black pipe. Cut the pipe to length with a hacksaw, paying careful attention to cut the pipe square; if not, the pipe will not fully seat in the fitting and is likely to leak. Smooth and bevel the edges slightly with a knife or fine file. If the pipe needs to drain, check its position with a level for the required slope.

Dry-fit the pipe into the correct position and make alignment reference marks on the pipe so you can easily put it back into position once it’s disassembled. Brush the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting with cement. Immediately push the pipe into the fitting, twisting it into proper position using the alignment marks. The cement sets in about 30 seconds; once the joint is set, it’s stuck together for good and must be cut apart to separate.

Drain clogs

Tools required: Plunger, drain auger, pipe wrench.

Technique: The best way to unclog a drain is mechanically. Caustic drain-clearing chemicals can be dangerous to use if splashed on skin or in eyes, so wear appropriate safety gear. Whenever possible, try to unclog the drain with mechanical measures first.

Begin with a plunger. Add enough water to the sink to cover the head of the plunger with water. If it’s a double sink in which the drains connect or there is an overflow opening, use a wet towel to cover the hole and help direct the plunging pressure to the clog. Plunge up and down vigorously, keeping the plunger sealed against the bottom of the sink. Once the clog breaks loose, run hot water through the drain to flush out any remaining debris.

If the plunger doesn’t clear the clogs, you may have to open the P-trap and remove the clog by hand. If you suspect the clog is beyond the P-trap, open the trap and feed a drain auger cable into the horizontal pipe. When you feel resistance, you are probably up against the clog. Pull an extra 18″ of cable out of the auger housing, tighten the setscrew and turn the crank on the auger. Push the cable into the drainpipe as you turn. Once you’ve worked that portion of cable into the pipe, loosen the setscrew and pull out another 18″. Continue this process until the cable bumps release the clog. Once the trap is replaced, run hot water through the drain to flush out any remains.



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