Plumbing Tools Needed to Replace a Hot Water System

There are a small number of tools and items of equipment needed for any plumbing work.

Hacksaws and rotary cutters

Pipes can be cut either with a hacksaw or a rotary pipe cutter. The standard hacksaw is either 255mm or 305mm long. Some can be adjusted up or down in size.

When cutting soft copper, low-tungsten steel blades can be used. With stainless steel, more durable but more expensive high-speed steel blades are used. For pipe over 15mm, a blade with 22 or, preferably, 32 teeth to each 25mm should be used. A junior hacksaw can be employed for most pipe cutting and has the advantage that it can cut in awkward places more readily than can larger hacksaws.

Blades should be fitted with the teeth pointing away from the handle. An arrow on the blade indicates the direction of fitting. Adjust the wing nut to take up the slack in the blade and then apply just three full turns.

Pipe should be firmly secured. When cutting, use a long, steady stroke at a rate of about one stroke per second for low-tungsten blades and about 70 per minute for high-speed steel. Release pressure on the return stroke. Never start a new blade in an old cut, or this may fracture the blade. Cut the tube straight across, and never at an angle, for this would produce an inadequate joint.

Support the pipe adequately on either side when cutting tube, to avoid distortion.

A rotary pipe cutter cuts both fast and accurately. If any large amount of cutting has to be done, this is a good investment. There are two main types of rotary cutter-one with two rollers and a cutter and the other with three cutters. Rotary cutters possess three toughened wheels, one of them the cutting wheel, mounted on a frame, forming a triangle.

These can be used on various sizes of pipe. The cutting wheel is mounted on a threaded spindle to provide adjustment to suit the pipe. The cutting is performed by rotating and gradually tightening the spindle to deepen the cut until the pipe is cut through.


A flat and a round file are needed, dependent on whether or not you are using a hacksaw or a rotary pipe cutter. The pipe cutter also possesses a device at the end to remove burrs from the pipe. If left, these could cause turbulence and impede the flow of water in the pipe.

After using a hacksaw to cut pipe, run the flat file across the face of the cut, to remove any irregularities and then slightly chamfer the outer pipe ends; this will make it easier to connect fittings.

The pipe cutter puts a slight bevel on the cut, so there is no need to apply a bevel where this has been used. Use the round file to remove burrs from inside the mouth of the pipe after cutting with a hacksaw.


Two adjustable spanners are needed to tighten fittings. The most suitable general sizes are either 255mm or 350mm long. Where heavily rusted iron pipe fittings have to be removed, a pair of Stillson wrenches might be needed.

These enable you to clamp securely on one side of the pipe, while manipulating the other section of pipe with the other spanner.

Bending springs and pipe benders Bending springs, or a bending machine, which can be bought or hired, are the best methods of bending pipe. Small fittings, such as 15mm elbows, should be used sparingly, as water turbulence and pressure loss can result at such joints.

Bending springs consist of a piece of tough coiled spring steel which is inserted into the pipe, with the middle of the spring roughly corresponding with the point of bend.

An eye is provided at the top of the spring to which a piece of wire or nylon cord can be attached to facilitate its removal. A screwdriver can be inserted into the eye and turned, in order to ‘unscrew’ a tight spring.

To bend pipe, insert the spring into the tube and bend the pipe against the knee with an even pressure. If you over-bend the pipe slightly and then unbend it, the spring should then be easy to remove.

A bending machine makes bending pipe even easier, and tighter and more precise bends are possible. These do not employ springs, but use formers, called ‘slippers’, or shoes. These shoes are half rounded and, when in position, encircle one half of the tube. The former is also half rounded, so that the tube is encircled during bending, to prevent it from kinking.

The action of bending is achieved by a handle which pulls the shoe around the appropriate former – 15mm, 22mm or 28mm – to form the bend. This former is in the form of a radius bend.

A useful device you can make for a spring is an extension which eliminates waste of tube. It is difficult to contain a short end to less than 150mm or 200mm because anything below this leaves little hand hold. Where a short tail is required, wastage of up to 150mm of tube can occur.

To make this, obtain a 300mm length of tube of the same diameter as that being used and a straight connector compression fitting, from which you file out the centre ridge or stop. Attach the fitting securely to one end of the tube.

This extension bar enables a bend with a tail of only 75mm to 100mm. Slide the spring through the bar and fitting and then into the tube awaiting bending. Lightly tighten the loose end of the straight connector and it will then be rigid enough to make the small-tailed bend.

Other items you may need, which depend on the types of fitting used, are a blow torch, plumbing lead, a ‘mole’. Tallow, solder, flux and fine wire wool.

Lightweight vice

A lightweight portable engineering vice with fibre jaws or a pipe vice would be useful. You can hold lengths of pipe in its jaws, without damage, during cutting. Never over-tighten the jaws of vices as this may distort the pipe.

Blow torch

A blow torch, such as a butane-gas one, is needed for any soldering work. There are two types of blow torch-those with an exchange cannister, for which you obtain a refill, and the throw-away replaceable type. Professional blow torches have large cannisters, connecting the torch head by a piece of flexible pipe. These are a worthwhile investment if you have any volume of work.

10. November 2011 by admin
Categories: Featured, Handyman Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Plumbing Tools Needed to Replace a Hot Water System


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