What is a Plumber’s Wrench? (Top 3 Plumber’s Wrenches to Buy Today)

“The right tool for the right job” This age-old adage is especially true when it comes to plumbing, and one tool that stands out is the plumber’s wrench. But what is it, and why do you need one?

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of plumber’s wrenches, their benefits, and the top three options to buy today.

What is a plumber’s wrench?

A plumber’s wrench, also known as a pipe wrench, is a hand tool often used in plumbing for gripping and turning pipes and fasteners that are typically too large for standard wrenches. It features an adjustable jaw that allows the user to grip different sizes of pipes or bolts.

The wrench design uses leverage and grip to hold onto the pipe, with the firmness of the grip increasing with force applied to the handle.

The 3 top plumber’s wrenches you can buy today

Many plumber wrenches are available on the market, each designed for a specific task. Here, we’ll go over three of the top plumber’s wrenches you can buy today:

Milwaukee14-inch Steel Pipe Wrench

It is a high-quality, heavy-duty tool designed with the needs of professional plumbers in mind. It features an adjustable jaw with serrated teeth to securely grip pipes.

The wrench stands out with its overbite jaw design, which ensures a large gripping surface and dual coil springs for enhanced durability. Despite its robust construction and large size (17 inches overall length, 5.2 inches jaw width), it remains relatively lightweight at 3.2 pounds.

Ridgid 24-Inch Aluminum Pipe Wrench

The Ridgid 31105 24-Inch Aluminum Pipe Wrench is a lightweight, robust, and versatile tool for challenging plumbing tasks. With an overall length of 24 inches and a 6-inch jaw width, this tool weighs just 3.79 pounds thanks to its high-strength aluminum construction.

It has a non-stick adjustment nut, full-floating jaws with serrated teeth for secure pipe gripping, and an ergonomic I-beam handle, ensuring comfort and control during extended use. Precise jaw adjustment capabilities and an enduring construction make this wrench efficient and long-lasting.

Channellock WideAzz Adjustable Wrench with Code Blue Grips

The wrench is made of forged chrome vanadium steel, which makes it incredibly strong and durable. The wide jaws provide a secure grip on wet or slippery pipes.

The Code Blue grips are comfortable, even when used for extended periods. The wrench has a pipe capacity of up to 2 inches and is suitable for all types of pipe work. Its measurement scales, available in both inches and millimeters, add convenience in sizing nuts, pipes, and tube diameters.

What are the types of plumber’s wrenches?

There are several types of plumber’s wrenches, each designed for a specific task in the plumbing profession.

Each of these wrenches has a specific role and application, and most professional plumbers will have an assortment of them to tackle any plumbing job.

Here are some of the most commonly used types:

  • Pipe wrench: A large, heavy-duty tool with adjustable jaws to grip and turn threaded pipes and pipe fittings.
  • Basin wrench: A specialized tool for tightening and loosening fasteners that secure faucets to sinks. Its T-shaped handle and serrated jaws make it ideal for working in tight spaces behind sinks.
  • Chain pipe wrench: A type of pipe wrench that uses a chain to grip the pipe is often used for large pipes or pipes in difficult-to-reach areas.
  • Faucet wrench: Designed specifically for working on faucets in tight spaces, They often feature a flexible shaft for reaching awkward spaces.
  • Flare nut wrench: Used to grip and turn flare nuts, which are used on soft metal tubing, such as that found in gas and hydraulic lines.
  • Strap wrench: A flexible strap or chain tool to grip and turn cylindrical objects like pipes or faucets. It is particularly useful when you don’t want to mar the surface of the pipe.
  • Plumber’s tongue-and-groove pliers (Channellock): These have long, adjustable jaws for gripping and turning various sizes of nuts, bolts, and other components.
  • Pipe vise: A bench tool that securely holds pipe as you cut, thread, or perform other operations.
  • Ratchet wrench: A type of wrench that uses a ratcheting mechanism to allow for continuous operation without needing to remove and reposition the wrench after each turn.
  • Closet spud wrench: A specialized wrench for installing and removing closet spuds and sink basket strainers.

What are the pros and cons of using a plumber’s wrench?

Wrenches are practical household items that are frequently used but are typically bulky. However, they have their specific pros and cons.

Below are some of the most common pros and cons discussed while using a plumber’s wrench:

Pros

  • Specific functionality: Plumber’s wrenches are designed for specific tasks related to plumbing, like tightening and loosening pipes. This makes them an essential tool for most plumbing jobs.
  • Strength: These wrenches are generally made from strong materials, like steel or aluminum, and can handle the rigors of plumbing work, which often includes dealing with old, rusted, or tightly fastened pipes.
  • Design: The design of most plumber’s wrenches, especially pipe wrenches, allows for an increasing grip with increased force applied to the handle. This self-tightening property is beneficial when dealing with slippery, round pipes.
  • Specialization: Certain types of plumber’s wrenches, like basin or faucet wrenches, are specially designed for particular tasks that can’t be handled well by other tools. This specialization can be very beneficial in the right circumstances.

Cons

  • Weight: Some plumber’s wrenches, especially larger ones, can be quite heavy, \which might lead to user fatigue during prolonged use.
  • Potential for damage: If not used carefully, the strong, sharp teeth of a plumber’s wrench can damage the surface of the pipes or fittings used. This is especially true for pipes with a softer material or a polished finish.
  • Size: While their size gives them leverage, it can also disadvantage them. Larger wrenches can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.
  • Adjustability: While generally a pro, in some situations, the adjustable nature of these wrenches can lead to less-than-ideal grip or torque. A poorly adjusted wrench can slip or damage the pipe or fastener it’s being used on.

What should I consider when buying a plumber’s wrench?

When buying a plumber’s wrench, you must consider several factors to ensure the tool meets your needs and is of good quality. The right wrench can make your plumbing tasks easier and more efficient. Here are some important aspects to keep in mind:

  • Size: The wrench size should be appropriate for the pipes you’ll be working with. Having a range of sizes at your disposal can help with different tasks.
  • Material: Plumber’s wrenches are typically made of steel or aluminum. Steel wrenches are more durable but can be heavier and more difficult to use. Aluminum wrenches are lighter and easier to use, but they may not be as durable.
  • Warranty: Many plumber’s wrenches come with a warranty. This can be valuable protection if the wrench breaks or malfunctions.
  • Jaw Design: The wrench’s jaw should provide a firm, secure grip on pipes to
  • Weight: A lighter wrench can be easier to use, especially for longer periods or tight spaces. However, it shouldn’t compromise the wrench’s strength or durability.

How do you use a plumber’s wrench?

A plumber’s wrench is essential for tightening and loosening pipes or fittings. Using it effectively requires a clear understanding of the process and careful handling to prevent damage. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Select the right wrench: Choose a plumber’s wrench that fits the pipe size you’re working with.
  2. Adjust the wrench: Open the wrench jaws by turning the adjustment screw. The jaws should fit snugly around the pipe or fitting, but not too tight.
  3. Position the wrench: Place the wrench so that the stationary jaw is closest to the direction you will be turning. The adjustable jaw should face the direction you’re planning to turn.
  4. Apply pressure: Hold the wrench firmly and apply pressure evenly. The wrench should grip the pipe without slipping.
  5. Turn the wrench: Turn the wrench counterclockwise if you’re loosening a fitting. To tighten it, turn it clockwise.
  6. Adjust as needed: If the wrench slips or doesn’t turn the fitting, stop and adjust the grip. Over-tightening can damage the wrench or the pipe.
  7. Check your work: Use the wrench to gently check its firmness once the fitting is tightened or loosened as needed. Avoid over-tightening, which can strip threads or damage fittings.

What are the common uses for a plumber’s wrench?

A plumber’s wrench, also known as a pipe wrench, is primarily used in plumbing for gripping, loosening, and tightening pipes and fittings. Its design and function make it suitable for various applications. Here are some common uses:

  • Working with pipes: Plumber’s wrenches are commonly used to install, remove, or adjust pipes, especially in plumbing systems. They provide the necessary grip and leverage for these tasks.
  • Adjusting fittings: They are often used for loosening or tightening fittings or fixtures, such as faucets, showerheads, or valves, that are connected to plumbing pipes.
  • Maintenance and repair: Plumber’s wrenches are commonly used in maintenance and repair tasks, particularly where there’s a need to disassemble plumbing fixtures for cleaning, replacement, or fixing leaks.
  • General utility: Outside of plumbing, they can also be used in other settings that require turning objects, provided that cosmetic damage is not a concern.
  • Emergency shut-off: They can be used to turn off water or gas supplies in emergencies, as they can provide the necessary leverage to turn stiff valves.

What can a plumber’s wrench be used for?

A plumber’s wrench is a multipurpose tool used outside of basic plumbing operations. Its sturdy and adaptable construction allows for various inventive uses, like tightening, releasing, or holding spherical items. Here are a few examples of potential uses:

  • Work on drains: Plumber’s wrenches can be used to loosen and tighten the nuts and bolts that connect pipes in a drain system. This is a common task for homeowners with problems with their drains, such as clogs or leaks.
  • As a lever: The long handle of a plumber’s wrench can be used to pry objects apart or apply force to other objects.
  • Outdoor maintenance: It can be used in garden or yard maintenance to turn large valves or tighten fixtures on outdoor equipment.
  • Art and sculpture: Some artists might even use a plumber’s wrench as part of their art, either as a material in a sculpture or to bend and shape other materials.
  • As a makeshift hammer: If you don’t have a hammer handy, you can use a plumber’s wrench to pound nails or drive screws.
  • Self-defense: Although not its intended purpose, a plumber’s wrench could theoretically be used for self-defense due to its weight and sturdy construction.
  • As a pry bar: The long handle of a plumber’s wrench can be used to pry objects apart, such as boards or nails.

What’s the difference between a plumber’s wrench and a regular wrench?

 A plumber’s wrench, often called a pipe wrench, and a regular wrench, often referred to as a combination wrench or open-end wrench, serve different purposes and have distinct features, which makes them ideal for specific tasks.

A plumber’s wrench is a large, heavy tool with adjustable, serrated jaws that securely grip pipes and other round objects.

Its primary function is to tighten or loosen pipes and fittings, making it a crucial tool in plumbing. The serrated jaws allow it to hold onto rounded surfaces securely without slipping.

On the other hand, a regular wrench is smaller, lighter, and designed to fit nuts and bolts of specific sizes.

It has two ends: one is open, and the other (in the case of a combination wrench) is a closed loop or box end. Both ends are typically hexagonal, providing six contact points with the nut or bolt.

What are the differences between a pipe wrench and a basin wrench?

A pipe wrench, or plumber’s wrench, is a robust tool for gripping and turning round objects like pipes. It’s typically heavy, with adjustable, serrated jaws that grip tightly onto pipes. However, its size and design can make it unwieldy in tight spaces.

Conversely, a basin or sink wrench is a specialized tool for working on faucets in confined areas.

It has a long shaft and a swiveling, self-adjusting jaw, enabling it to reach into the narrow space behind a sink to adjust the faucet’s nuts. Its design, though perfect for its specific purpose, is unsuitable for heavier-duty tasks involving large pipes or stubborn fittings, unlike the pipe wrench.

What materials are plumber’s wrenches made of?

Plumber wrenches are typically cast iron, steel, or aluminum. Cast iron is the most durable material, but it is also the heaviest. Steel is a good compromise between durability and weight. Aluminum is the lightest material, but it is also the least durable.

The type of material used for a plumber’s wrench will depend on the specific application. For example, a cast iron wrench would be a good choice for heavy-duty work, such as installing or repairing large pipes.

A steel wrench would be a good choice for general-purpose work. And an aluminum wrench would be a good choice for lightweight work, such as on faucets or other small plumbing fixtures.

Is a plumber’s wrench necessary for plumbing jobs?

Yes, a plumber’s wrench is necessary for most plumbing jobs. It’s a specialized tool designed to grip, tighten, and loosen pipes and fittings, tasks that are common in plumbing work.

A plumber’s wrench is a crucial tool in their toolbox because it offers precise control, which helps prevent damage and ensures a good fit when adjusting pipe angles, replacing sections, or performing repairs.

Without it, carrying out plumbing tasks effectively and efficiently could become more challenging.

What’s the difference between a plumber’s wrench and a spanner?

A plumber’s wrench is a crucial tool in their toolbox because it offers precise control, which helps prevent damage and ensures a good fit when adjusting pipe angles, replacing sections, or performing repairs on hexagonal objects like nuts and bolts.

Plumber wrenches are typically heavier and bulkier than spanners because they need to grip round objects with a lot of force. Spanners are lighter and more compact because they are not designed to grip round objects as tightly.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between plumber’s wrenches and spanners:

FeaturePlumber’s wrenchSpanner
JawsSerratedSmooth
WeightHeavyLight
BulkinessBulkyCompact
UseHeavy-duty tasksGeneral-purpose tasks
This table displays the differences between a plumber’s wrench and a spanner in properties like the jaw, weight, bulkiness and use.

What is the best way to grip a plumber’s wrench?

The best way to grip a plumber’s wrench is to use a two-handed grip. This will give you more leverage and control, which is important when working with heavy-duty pipes or fixtures.

Hold the wrench with one hand near the fixed jaw, which is the stationary part of the wrench. This will serve as your anchor point. If you find the wrench slipping or losing grip, readjust your hand position, ensuring a tight and secure hold on the wrench jaws.

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Author: Logan

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