You never know when a pipe might burst in your plumbing system. Whether a worker cracks it during a kitchen remodel or the freezing temperatures of winter are to blame, broken or leaking pipes can not only cause your water bill to skyrocket, but cause serious damage to your home as well. The signs of leaky pipes are fairly evident in most cases, so if you notice wet spots or one of your lines or fixtures not functioning quite right, it’s something you’ll want to address right away. If you wait, you risk causing further damage that could end up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs.
The good news is that fixing broken pipes is something you can do yourself in most cases, as long as you’re armed with a little know-how and the right materials.
Locate the Leak and Turn of the Valve
If you’re dealing with a water supply leak where water is coming into your home’s plumbing systems, the first thing you need to do is locate the leak and turn off the necessary supply valve. For example, if your washing machine is leaking, turn off the closest valve that controls the flow of water to your laundry room.
Drain the Affected Pipe
Once you’ve turned off your supply valve, it’s time to turn on all the taps that are connected and let the water drain. The last thing you want to have happen is to start the process of repairing the pipe only to find that there is still water in the affected area. If this happens, you could end up with a bigger mess than you already have.
Leaks in Your Wall
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having a leak in your wall, you will have to cut a hole in the wall to get to it. To do this, you’ll need a drywall saw and a utility knife. Both can be purchased for minimal cost at your local hardware store. To start, score a line of 10-12 inches in the wall where you notice water damage. Next, use your drywall saw to cut a hole big enough that you can see inside with a small flashlight. After you’ve found the source of the leak, cut the hole big enough so that you can get inside.
Using Repair Clamps For Broken Copper Pipes
If your pipes are made of copper and you find the leak to be small, you’re in luck. All you should need to fix the leak is a repair clamp that can be purchased cheaply. Repair clamps are metal sleeves with a rubber pad on the inside that fits over the pipe where the leak is exposed.
Before you install your repair clamp, thoroughly clean the pipe with emery paper or plumbers sand cloth to prevent future corrosion. Next, loosen the bolts on the repair clamp using a wrench and open the clamp. Now wrap the clamp around the pipe so that the rubber pad covers the leak. Lastly, tighten the bolts with the wrench. When installed properly, a repair clamp should last for the life of the pipe.
Using Fiberglass For Broken PVC Pipes
If you need to repair a broken PVC that’s in a difficult spot to reach or you need to complete the job quickly, fiberglass is a great option.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, you can apply fiberglass resin tape. Before you apply the tape, thoroughly clean the area of the pipe where it will be applied. Wrap the tape over the leak a few times and let it sit for the manufactures suggested amount of time to allow the resin to set.
Using Repair Couplings for Broken PVC Pipes
If you have PVC pipe that is leaking and it is in a section that cannot be moved enough to allow replacement using regular couplings and pipe, try using a PVC repair coupling. Purchased at most home improvement stores, PVC repair couplings come in two styles; an extendable coupling called an expansion coupling and a compression coupling. The expansion coupling has a coupling socket on one end that cements over the other and a pipe size extender that slides out to cement into a regular coupling (sold separately) that is then cemented to the pipe that is being repaired. You will also need PVC primer and cement and there is a required curing time that must be followed to get a watertight connection.
To start, dry fit the standard coupling onto the pipe-sized end of the expansion coupling, making sure it is seated fully onto the expansion coupling. Then extend the expansion coupling halfway to full extension. Now you can place the expansion coupling and regular coupling next to the damaged pipe and mark where you need to make your cuts, allowing for enough pipe to go into the sockets of the expansion coupling and regular coupling. Once the section is marked, use pipe cutters to remove the damaged section.
Now that you have your coupling sized and have removed the broken section of pipe, it is time to apply PVC primer to the inside of the socket of the expansion coupling and the pipe being repaired, then apply the cement to both and join them together, turning the expansion coupling a quarter turn to evenly spread the cement and hold for about 10 seconds. Then remove the standard coupling from the pipe sized end of the expansion coupling and primer and cement them together. Then cement the standard coupling to the pipe. Allow the cement to dry following the instructions on the can, turn your water back on to make sure there are no leaks.
There is also a compression coupling that does not require cementing, which allows the water to be turned on immediately. These fittings will need to be secured so no movement can take place. If they are unsecured and there is enough movement in any direction, the pipe can slip out of the coupling.
Broken or cracked pipes are a problem that no homeowner wants to deal with. They can quickly create messes, cause damage and increase your water bill. Even though finding a leak can cause you to panic, the good news is that repairing it is something you can do on your own. Once you’ve found a leak and figure out the best method to go about fixing it, you can be back up and running in no time.
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