plumbers tools

5 of the Best Tools Plumbers Use in 2020 – The Ultimate Guide!

I use plumbers tools every day and have much more than I need. I started my plumbing company nearly 10 years ago and mostly bought cheap tools.

Now I buy some of the best tools plumbers use as I use them every day.

It just makes your working life so much easier to have the best plumbing tools on the market. 

Tools Plumbers Use Every Day

If you buy cheap plumbing tools to use every day, then you will be replacing them more often than if you buy the best tools going. So buying the best quality tools will actually work out cheaper over time. 

Copper pipe

1. Plumbers Grips (Water Pump Pliers)

Grips are one of the most common tools a plumber uses on everyday jobs. You can use them to grip and turn nuts or pipes.

You can also use them for other things like straighten out bits of metal, pull small nails and staples out, and sometimes even as a hammer.

Knipex

180 mm Knipex Alligator Grips

My favourite water pump pliers are the German Knipex Alligators. I have all sizes that Knipex make and have two of some sizes.

The smallest Knipex Alligators (88 01 180) are 180 mm (7″) which live in a flappy pocket on my work trousers. I use them a lot as they are always on hand.

Most Popular Size Grips

Then there’s the 250 mm (10″) Knipex Alligators (88 01 250) which are the most useful size and this is the size I mostly use when I have a bag of tools out on a job.

This is the size I would recommend a plumber buys as their first set of grips.

300 mm (12″) Alligators (88 01 300) are the next size up and although they don’t get used as much, they can be a lifesaver.

Much better size for things like tap valve cartridges that don’t want to come out, and the large plastic nuts on toilet flush valves.

Then there’s the big 400 mm (16″) Knipex Alligator grips (88 01 400) – they don’t come out often, but they are beasts compared to the 300 mm (12″) Alligators, it doesn’t sound like much difference but it is huge.

Large Knipex Alligator plumbers grips
400 mm Knipex Alligator grips

Different Plumbers Grips

Different plumbers prefer different grips. Some swear by Rothenberger, or channellock, or Crescent, but I don’t like them. Mostly though, I think British plumbers prefer Knipex Cobras.

Cobras are very similar to Alligators, but they have a push button (Alligators do not) to change the jaw size, and they have more teeth where they adjust so more sizes to set them to.

Knipex Cobra plumbers grips
250 mm Knipex Cobra Extra Slim grips

I prefer to not have a button because it makes it slightly trickier to adjust them, especially if you only have one hand free.

Cobras are more popular, so they have more variations to choose from. They start at 125 mm (5″) and go right up to 560 mm (22″).

I have the 125 mm Cobras (87 01 125) and the 250 mm Knipex Cobra Extra Slim jaw grips (87 51 250).

2. Adjustable Spanner (Wrench)

An adjustable spanner is an essential part of a plumbers tools list.  German brand Bahco are the most popular amongst UK plumbers for adjustable spanners, and rightly so.

Bahco

My smallest adjustable wrench is my 100 mm (4″) Bahco Adjustable (8069) that lives on a carabiner clip clipped to my work pants, and is very handy for moving small nuts on boiler repairs.

I also have the 200 mm (8″) Bahco Wide Jaw (9031) which jaw opens up to 38 mm, and I have the 200 mm Slim Jaw version (9031T).

Bahco mini adjustable spanner
100 mm mini Bahco adjustable

Channellock

My new favourite adjustable is the 200 mm (8″) American made Channellock Wide Azz (8WCB), it has a 38 mm jaw opening which is what I use most often now.

The handle is fatter and softer, so more comfortable and easier to grip properly for when you really need to force it.

It’s also very well made and the smooth flush finish is preferable to the Bahco one. Same size jaw opening.

200 mm (8″) is the most common size for a plumbers adjustable and definitely one of the essential tools plumbers use.

They fit most nuts on 22 mm pipes and fittings, and I would definitely recommend this size if you only had one.

Channellock plumbers adjustable spanner
Channellock adjustable spanner

Monument Tools Plumbers Use

British tool makers Monument make very good adjustable spanners and I use two of them regularly. 

The 150 mm (6″) Monument wide jaw (3140Q) opens up to 34 mm, and is nice and short for using on things like bath tap connector nuts.

I also have the 250 mm (10″) Monument wide jaw (3143Z) plumbers adjustable spanner which is nice and big and the jaw opens up to 50 mm, perfect for gas meter union nuts, and is the widest jaw 250 mm adjustable available as far as I know.

3. Pipe Cutters

Pipe cutters are one of many essential tools plumbers use. From adjustable cutters to fixed size pipe slices, a plumber could not do without pipe cutters.

 Copper Pipes

You can use a hacksaw to cut copper pipes but you will need to file the rough edges down. This is not practical if you’re plumbing all day.

I work on 8 mm up to 28 mm copper pipes, you could just cut all sizes with one adjustable cutter but I have at least one pipe slice for each size.

4. Radiator Bleed Key

Every plumbers tools collection needs at least one radiator bleed key. They are for bleeding the air out of radiators when refilling the heating system with water.

The best bleed keys are the flat brass clock type ones pictured. They are tough and durable and have two large holes so can easily be clipped on to a keyring.

bleed key tools plumbers use
Clock type bleed key

They also have quite a big flat surface area which makes it easy and comfortable to turn the really stuck bleed nipples in old radiators.

I prefer the Westco clock type keys that I buy from Wolseley (Plumbcenter) as they seem to grip old worn radiator nipples better than the none branded bleed keys, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. 

Tommy bar 

I also keep a tommy bar type radiator bleed key on my bunch of keys, as it’s small and you don’t really notice it.

It’s good for radiators that have the bleed nipples on the back on the panels, sometimes it’s awkward to turn them with a clock type bleed key.

Tommy bar radiator bleed key
Tommy bar bleed key

5. Olive Cutters

Olive cutters are amazing. Olive pullers don’t always work, but using olive cutters instead of a hacksaw can save any potential cuts to the pipe.

They take a bit of getting used to as they can potentially damage the pipe also, but nowhere near as likely as a hacksaw could.

olive cutter and puller plumbers tools

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