best plumbing tools

7 of the Best Plumbing Tools in 2022

I use plumbing tools every day and have many more than I need. I started my heating and plumbing company over 10 years ago and mostly bought cheap tools.

Now I buy some of the best plumbing tools on the market as I use them every day. It makes your working life so much easier to have the best plumbing tools to help cut that awkward pipe or press fit that fitting. 

Whether it’s plumbing in a washing machine or installing a new central heating system, having the best plumbing tools will always make it go more smoothly.

Only the Best Plumbing Tools for Everyday Use

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. 

Best Adjustable Spanner

An adjustable spanner is an essential part of a plumbing tool kit.  German brand Bahco is the most popular amongst UK plumbers for adjustable spanners, and rightly so. To me, Bahco is one of the best adjustable spanner makers.

Bahco

My smallest adjustable spanner is my 100 mm (4″) Bahco Adjustable (8069) that lives on a carabiner clip clipped to my work pants. It’s 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

As of quite recently, I think Channellock do the best adjustable spanner. I have the 200 mm (8″) American-made Channellock wide-jaw adjustable wrench “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 an adjustable spanner and definitely one of the best plumbing tools.

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 Adjustable Spanners

British toolmakers Monument make very good, reliable, and some of the best plumbing tools. Monument adjustable spanners are great, 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) adjustable spanner, which is nice and big – the jaw opens up to 50 mm. This size is perfect for gas meter union nuts, and is the widest jaw available for a 250 mm adjustable as far as I know.

Best Plumbers Grips

Grips (water pump pliers) 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 straightening out bits of metal, pulling small nails and staples out, and sometimes even as a hammer.

Knipex

The best plumbers grips are the German Knipex Alligators. I have all sizes that Knipex make, and have two of some sizes, as they are the best plumbing tools on the market.

best plumbers grips knipex
My Knipex tool collection

The smallest Knipex Alligators (88 01 180) are 180 mm (7″) and live in a 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 are 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 of a difference, but it is huge.

Large Knipex Alligator plumbers grips
400 mm Knipex Alligator grips

Different Plumbers Grips

Different plumbers prefer different grips. Some will say either Rothenberger, Channellock, or Crescent are the best plumbers grips, but I don’t like any of them after trying them all.

Mostly, though, I think most British plumbers would say Knipex Cobras are the best plumbers grips. 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 the button 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).

Best Copper Pipe Cutter

Copper pipe cutters are one of many essential plumbing tools. From adjustable pipe cutters to fixed-size pipe slices, a plumber could not do without copper 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 cut all sizes with one adjustable pipe cutter, but I have at least one pipe slice for each size.

Best Plastic Pipe Cutter

The best plastic pipe cutter depends on what size pipe you need to cut, as there are lots of different diameters of plastic pipe around. The sizes of plastic pipes I use are 10 mm, 15 mm, 21.5 mm, 22 mm, 32 mm, and 40 mm.

The best plastic pipe cutter for the smaller sizes up to 22 mm plastic pipe is the John Guest Speedfit pipe cutter.

The best plastic pipe cutter for 32 and 40 mm plastic pipes are the Rothenberger Plasticut and the Ox PolyZip, I have both, and they are exactly the same. The 35 mm version for 32 mm pipe, and the 42 mm version for 40 mm pipe, as those are the external diameters of those plastic waste pipes.

Best Radiator Bleed Key

Every plumbing tool 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 radiator 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 onto 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 valves in old radiators.

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

Tommy bar radiator bleed key

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 of the panels, sometimes it’s awkward to turn them with a clock-type bleed key.

Tommy bar radiator bleed key
Tommy bar bleed key

Best Blow Torch for Plumbing

The best blow torch for plumbing, which I’m sure most plumbers will agree with, is the Rothenberger Super Fire 2.

There are many like it, but nothing compares to the quality of a Rothenberger Super Fire 2. It can be stripped down and parts replaced when needed. Also, they have different flame burners to change the flame to your liking.

I have had two in over ten years of soldering and only bought the second one last year. The first torch still works, but I just wanted a new one and now keep the old heavily used one as a backup spare in the van.

Although I’m soldering less now with recently being sold on press-fit fittings using a press-fit gun, until a new torch comes out I think the Super Fire will remain the best blow torch for plumbing on the market.

Best Tool Bag for Plumbers

You couldn’t have the best plumbing tools list without having the best tool bag for plumbers on there, and without a doubt, the Veto Pro Pac is the best tool bag for plumbers.

I have had many tool bags over the years, but nothing compares to the quality of a Veto Pro Pac. I have three, but only use two of them right now.

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