DIY plumbing repairs for leaking pipes

One of the more common plumbing problems DIYers undertake is fixing a leaking pipe. There are many reasons why pipes leak and your approach to the plumbing repair job will depend on what kind of leak you’re dealing with. Some leaks can lead to catastrophic flooding or other major issues; others are not so serious. But they are all inconvenient. [Photo Credit: istock.com/ronstik]

 

DIY plumbing repairs for leaking pipes

Time:  N/A
Frequency: N/A
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tools: Water leak detector, pipe wrench, pipe patch kit, plumber’s tape, pipe insulation.

Learn how to locate the cause of your leaky pipes and follow these handy suggestions for fixing them once you do.

Find the leak

  • Most leaks occur around bathtubs and showers, drains, sinks and toilets.
  • Regularly inspect visible pipes for any leaks.
  • Shut off water to all the plumbing fixtures in your house to determine the presence of any substantial leaks.
  • If water is pooling in the crawl space, you will need to determine if it’s coming from the drain or supply lines. Turn off all the faucets and make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are not running, then check both sets of pipes.
  • Water from a slow leak can travel a long distance before it finally drips. Start from the wet spot and move along the pipe, focusing on any joints.
  •  Consider purchasing a water leak detector that senses the presence of water and alerts you to possible leaks.

Know your joints

There are three types of joints: soldered, compression and push-fit fittings. How you approach a leaky joint depends on the type of joint.

Soldered fittings:

  • Once water is leaking from the pipe, it can be very difficult to re-solder the fitting and create a watertight joint.
  • Often you will need to replace the joint.
  • Replacing the joint is typically done by cutting the pipe and replacing a short section with new solder fittings at each end.

Compression fittings:

  • Compression fittings rely on the ferrule/olive being compressed to form a good seal.
  • Leaking compression joints can often be easy to fix.
  • To tighten the joint filling, hold the body of the joint with a pipe wrench to prevent it from moving or twisting, then use another wrench to tighten the connection a little.
  • If a small amount of tightening doesn’t fix the problem, don’t over tighten. You will need to refit or replace the joint.

Push-fit fittings:

  • A little investigation may be needed, as there are a number of reasons why a push-fit fitting may be leaking.
  • If the pipe is not fully pushed into the joint connection, it may be a simple matter of pushing the pipe in fully.
  • You may need to drain the pipe and clean or replace the fitting; often dirt and debris in the connection may have caused the joint to fail.

Good to know!

Be careful when tightening a joint as over tightening can result in an even worse leak.

Patch leaky pipes

Often, leaks in the pipes themselves are best left to a plumber. However, you may want to consider installing a pipe patch to see if it stops the leak.

  • Leaking pipe patch-kits are available at most plumbing or hardware stores.
  • Pipe patches can often be a permanent solution if the rest of the pipe is sound.
  • A temporary solution while waiting for the plumber may be to wrap waterproof tape around the offending area. Make sure the outside of the pipe is dry before taping.
  • If the leak is due to corrosion, the whole pipe may need to be replaced.

Good to know!

The problem with a temporary solution is that a leak appearing in one section of the pipe may indicate that other areas will also start leaking soon. If in doubt, check with an experienced plumber.

Insulate sweating pipes

Not all drips are due to leaky pipes. Sometimes pipe sweating is the issue.

  • Sweating occurs when the water in the pipe is much colder than the humid air surrounding the pipe.
  • When warm humid air reaches the pipe, drops of condensation form and drip as if the pipe were leaking.
  • An easy way to control the moisture problem is to insulate the pipes.
  • There are a number of self-adhesive tapes available on the market to fix this issue. Check with your local hardware or plumbing store.

Good to know!

Before applying adhesive tape, make sure to wipe the pipes as dry as you can and wrap the tape so that it completely covers the pipe and fittings.

Thaw frozen pipes

Cold winter weather can cause pipes to freeze, and as the frozen water expands, it can cause pipes to rupture.

  • To prevent pipes from freezing, wrap them well with insulating material.
  • If a pipe freezes and you decide to thaw it yourself, first open a faucet so that the steam produced by your thawing method has a place to escape.
  • The easiest and safest method to thaw a pipe is to use hot water.
  • Wrap a heavy towel around the pipe to concentrate it and keep it against the heat.
  • Place a bucket underneath to catch the run-off water.
  • Pour hot water over the towel.
  • Another option is to use a heat lamp or hair dryer. These are slower methods, but often do the trick.

As with many plumbing issues, prevention is often the key to avoid leaking pipes. Make sure all joints are securely joined, wrap pipes in tape to prevent condensation and insulate them. Leaky pipes can cause serious damage, so tackling minor problems before they become major ones can be the difference between a simple DIY fix and an expensive visit from the plumber.

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