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Working With Wrenches Like a Professional Plumber



Virtually every plumbing project you will tackle as a homeowner will involve working with wrenches – adjustable wrenches, sliding-jaw wrenches, locking-jaw wrenches, and occasionally a pipe wrench.

Tightening and Loosening Wrenches

If you have not worked with wrenches a lot, it is easy to get confused about which way to turn the wrench to tighten or loosen a nut or bolt.  For around 98% of the nuts and bolts you will be dealing with, you will move the wrench clockwise to tighten and counterclockwise to loosen.  The other 2% of nuts and bolts are reverse-threaded – you will find these used to hold spinning parts, like wheels, in places where the natural rotation of the wheel would loosen the nut or bolt as it spins.

Two-Wrench Method

Many plumbing tasks involve using two wrenches together to tighten or loosen apart.  If space allows, use a wrench in each hand.  For tight quarters, use just one hand.  Place one wrench on one part and the other wrench on the other part, so the wrenches are splayed slightly.  Then squeeze to loosen or tighten the plumbing part.  The pressure from one hand is often all you will need to tighten or loosen a plumbing part.

Adjustable-jaw Wrenches for Finished Parts

Many of the plumbing parts you will be working with will be exposed and will have a decorative finish such as chrome or brass.  If you use any wrench that has serrated jaws to tighten or loosen the part, the jaws will cut into and damage the finish.  Whenever possible, use an adjustable wrench or other unserrated-jaw wrenches to tighten or loosen the part; the smooth jaws won’t hurt the finish.


Preventing Damage from Serrated Jaws

To tighten or loosen decorative parts that are too large for an adjustable wrench, wrap a couple turns of duct tape around the serrated jaws of a sliding-jaw wrench to pad the jaws and prevent damaging the finish.

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