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Do you know the difference between a basin wrench and a pipe wrench?While we could go on for days defining every plumbing tool, fixture and practice out there, here we’ve condensed that information and include what’s most relevant for basic home and commercial plumbing repair. 

In this blog post, you’ll find descriptions of the most common plumbing tools and components, as well as the trenchless solutions you can always fall back on in case of drastic plumbing emergencies.

Basic Plumbing Tools

Drain snake (or auger) - a drain snake is a bendable, hooked tool that plumbers often use to dislodge clogged debris within drain pipes. These tools can be purchased for a reasonable price, and are very useful to have on-hand.

Basin wrenches - basin wrenches are almost always necessary when working with supply lines or other hard-to-reach plumbing fixtures. These wrenches are adjustable for both various angles and lengths, providing access to even the most awkward-fitting fixtures.

Spanner wrenches -  these adjustable tools are essential in any plumbing toolkit (and home care kit, for that matter). They’re often the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “wrench,” so there’s a very good chance you already have one in your home somewhere. Spanner wrenches have smooth jaws and do not harm plumbing fixtures when used.

Pipe wrenches - these tools are the safest for working with home plumbing pipes. They feature an adjustable upper jaw, which makes working with tight plumbing lines a painless task; most commonly used in maintenance for soft iron pipe and other round fixtures.

Fixture Terminology

Coupling - a coupling is a a piece of fitting hardware often used in plumbing systems to connect joints and pipe. Curved couplings are called elbows, and are most commonly found in either 45° or 90° angles.

Faucet aerator - this refers to the small, screw-in-place cap on most modern faucets, which reduces splashing when water is flowing. When diagnosing sink problems, you may have to remove this piece to assess faucet internals.

Fitting - a fitting is any piece of hardware that connects two pipe segments; couplings and elbows are both considered fittings.

Flapper - the rubber piece inside toilet tanks that forms a seal between the tank and bowl. When toilets are flushed, this piece is raised so water can pass through into the bowl.

Flow rate - the rate of water flow through your home or property plumbing fixtures, typically recorded in gallons per minute or hour.

GPF, GPM and GPH - respectively, gallons per flush, gallons per minute and gallons per hour; flow rates for measuring toilet performance.

O-ring - plumbing’s version of your conventional washer. O-rings are round, and because of such create an airtight seal when used within plumbing fixtures.

Shutoff valve - the valve commonly below sink, tub and toilet fixtures that serves as an emergency valve in case of malfunction; during any DIY plumbing repairs, always tighten the stuff valve first.

Trenchless Pipe Repair Terms

Directional boring - this refers to the minimal digging that is required when there are no pre-existing entry points for trenchless lining applications. As opposed to trenching out damaged pipes, repair technicians can access your pipe via small directional drills, which largely preserve your property and remove landscaping from the repair equation.

Hydro-jetting - hydro-jetting is Step 1 in trenchless application. Once damage and its extent have been assessed, trenchless experts will use jetting tools to clear pipes of debris, dirt and other materials; think power washing for your pipe walls. Then, liners and other materials can be used to restore the pipe in question.

Manhole-to-manhole lining - this refers to trenchless repair for municipal sewer systems. Using manhole entryways, trenchless pros can apply liners and air bladders with zero digging; this saves tens of thousands of dollars in restoring sewer lines. 

Pipe bursting - when pipes are significantly damaged and cannot be restored using pipe liners, trenchless pros will recommend pipe bursting. In bursting applications, a cone-shaped, steel bursting head fragments damaged pipe from within, and installs a new pipe (connected to the bursting head) in a single, seamless application.

Pipe lining - pipe lining is the trenchless art of restoring ailing pipe lines from within. Through noninvasive entry points, trenchless experts can coat inner pipe walls and cure new pipe segments in-place using heat, water or air bladders (hence the industry term, “cured-in-place pipe”). This process can usually be completed in a single day.

Trenchless technology - trenchless technologies are those used to repair underground pipes without the costly, invasive digging (or, “trenching”) of traditional repairs. It typically refers to pipe lining equipment, directional boring machines and pipe bursting technology.

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Topics: Drain Cleaning, Trenchless Technology, Plumbing Tips, Inspection, How To, Preventative