DIY plumbers have an almost thankless job. They do the work most of us would rather avoid, from unclogging toilets to replacing pipes. Friends and neighbors may ooh and ah over a new deck or a patched-up roof, but nobody stops to appreciate a properly flushing toilet or an unclogged sink until it stops working. To make matters worse, unless you've been trained in the art of plumbing, you probably aren't familiar with the tools in DIY plumbers' trade, meaning the best hobby-related presents most amateur pipe- and potty-fixers can hope to receive is a gift card.
Well, you can say goodbye to those hours of clueless gift shopping that usually still end with the purchase of a gift card. This year, show the DIY plumber in your life that you appreciate all the unseen maintenance he does with a personalized present from TLC's DIY plumbers' gift guide. We'll teach you the difference between a test plug and ball, and we'll even explain which power tools make the best presents for plumbers.
Read on to learn which everyday household item could make for a humorous (but still useful) gift.
Plumbing Hand Tools for the DIYer
While typical handymen have to divide their attention among all manner of potential trouble spots, everything a plumber does is directly or indirectly related to (not surprisingly) plumbing. Therefore, it doesn't matter if your DIYer is fixing a leaky sink or unclogging a toilet, his tools are going to be job-specific. You can't just buy him a hammer and assume he'll be able to use it.
Let's start this gift list with some hand tools every plumber can use:
- Slip-joint pliers - Remember, your DIYer is working with pipes, so he's going to need an adjustable pair with grooved teeth that prevent slipping, even on wet metal.
- Pipe wrench - Look for a sturdy product with hardened teeth to prevent slippage.
- Basin wrench - This strange-looking tool gets into awkward, hard-to-reach spaces to aid in sink repair and replacement.
- Toilet auger - This tool is a plumber's best bet for removing toilet obstructions -- just make sure you pick up a model with a vinyl porcelain guard to prevent potty scratches.
- Propane torch - Plumbers use propane torches to solder and seal broken pipes.
- Plumbers' tape - Plumbers' namesake tape is used to seal pipe threads and prevent leaks.
- Plunger - Do we really need to explain this one? It's more of a gag gift, but it might come in handy for emergencies when your DIY plumber isn't around.
Any DIY plumber is also going to need a few tools that are specifically designed to cut tubes and pipes, so let's take a look at some of those:
- PVC Cutter - This is a tool that cuts plastic pipe -- a must for any plumber.
- Mini hacksaw - It's just like a normal-sized hacksaw, but it's miniaturized for pipes and spaces where a standard model would be bulky and unwieldy.
- Cable saw - A great PVC-cutting tool for those areas even a mini hacksaw can't get to.
- Copper/metal tube cutters - They look like vise grips, but these cutters are specifically designed to slice through copper and metal plumbing.
Hand tools are great, but what should you do if your DIYer has all the wrenches, torches and plungers he needs? Find out how to put his tool needs to the test on the next page.
Plumbing Test Tools for the DIYer
Plumbing isn't all about cutting, twisting and plunging. In fact, a large part of the trade relies on various forms of testing. Every plumber (DIY or professional) needs to conduct an investigation before he starts snipping lines and cutting pipes. All of the tools on this list will help your DIY plumber test the integrity of various pipes and check for leakage, and any of these tools would make for an excellent and unexpected gift.
Plumbers' testing equipment generally consists of:
- Test plug - The standard testing tool of every plumber, test plugs thread onto pipes and are the first step in checking pressure and determining the cause and location of leaks. Just make sure you pick up multiple sizes to keep your plumber ready for any job.
- Test ball plugs - These inexpensive plugs are designed to test the drain, waste and vent piping systems. Like with standard test plugs, you should buy a few in several different sizes so he's prepared for multiple plumbing problems.
- Pressure testing kit - Pressure testing kits allow plumbers to check for loss of pressure from leaks and line restrictions. These gauge-centered kits are mandatory tools for both amateur and professional plumbers.
- Hydrostatic test pump - These bulky power tools won't do much to help your DIYer find or fix that leak under the kitchen sink, but if he ever needs to test an entire plumbing system (or is thinking about turning his amateur hobby into a full-time profession), this engine-powered tool will be a necessity. It will allow him to set and lock the pressure in a system of closed pipelines and find any and all leaks. Make sure he's serious before you splurge on this gift, however, as the high-output versions of these power tools typically cost several thousand dollars.
Plumbing Power Tools for the DIYer
Ah, now we're getting to the good stuff. That's right, power tools aren't only for home contractors and repairmen: Plumbers need them, too. And we're not just talking about expensive test pumps. Plumbers -- DIY and otherwise -- are in constant need of power drills, saws and other machines, though the tools sometimes have to be specialized to meet their needs.
Plumbing-related power tools make memorable, meaningful gifts because they show that not only are you supportive of your DIYer's hobby, they let him know you really understand what he does and needs. Plus, what DIYer couldn't use another power tool?
Check out this list to get an idea for a gift to make your DIY plumber's holiday:
- Right-angle drills - These are exactly what they sound like: tools that drill at right angles instead of the standard forward course of straight-line drills. Right-angle drills are perfect for plumbers, as drilling large holes at extremely awkward angles is part of the craftsman's job description. Be sure to select a model with two or more gears for increased speed and torque so your DIYer will be able to carve into even the thickest and toughest materials without any problems.
- Straight-line power drill - This tool is made for those situations where a right angle isn't needed.
- Reciprocating saw - The up and down movement of a reciprocating saw's blade is perfect for pipe-cutting or carving through wood, metal, tile, drywall or virtually any other material, assuming you have the right blades. The reciprocating saw's short stroke also often allows access to (and through) those hard-to-reach places most regular tools can't access.
- Threading machine - Pipe threading machines allow pipes to be cut and threaded on-site, meaning they can be a real life-saver (and time-saver!) for any truly dedicated DIY plumber. The machines can be pretty expensive, however, costing upward of $5,000. As with the hydrostatic test pump, make sure plumbing is a passion for your DIYer before you flush out that much cash for an upscale model.
- Dictionary.com. "Hydrostatics." 2010. (Nov. 14, 2010)http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hydrostatics