Have you ever come home to a surprise leak from a cracked or burst pipe and panicked not knowing what steps to take next? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. And, it can feel particularly stressful when a plumber isn’t readily available to come out and repair the issue right away.
Our experts are going to break down four ways you can successfully buy yourself some time and temporarily repair a leaky pipe until a professional can assess your situation. We strongly encourage that homeowners notify their plumber as soon as possible after spotting a leak. The sooner a professional can diagnose and remedy the problem, the better.
Prep for a Temporary Repair
First, you’ll want to make sure you find a container, such as a bucket or trash can, to catch the leaking water to minimize damage to your finishes. Most leaks originate from weakened pipe joints as a result of aging, vibration and water hammer (or banging pipes).
Next, locate the main water valve (usually in the home’s basement, crawl space or mechanical room) and turn it off. Now, it’s time to drain down the system – open all faucets within the home and drain the system from a faucet at the lowest location in the home or closest to the main shutoff valve. This will help the water flow freely while draining. In multi-level homes, draining the system from the lowest level will allow gravity to do the job of emptying the system. In single-level dwellings, draining the system as close to the main water valve as possible will prevent water from being trapped in the system.
Once you have the leak under control, immediately clean up any remaining water that has made its way to your floors, cabinets, walls, etc. If water sits too long on surfaces, like particle board or laminate material (which are commonly used underneath cabinets), it can quickly cause the area to mold and deteriorate.
Upon completing a variation of these steps, you can now begin repairing your leak. The following products on our list can be used on any type of pipe CTS (Copper Tube Size) or IPS (Iron Pipe Size). Additionally, it’s critical to ensure the size of the repair clamp or coupling corresponds with the size of the pipe. For example, if a leaky pipe is a CTS (Copper/CPVC), then you should select a clamp/coupling for CTS pipe.
Each of these products offers its own unique pros and cons. Silicone tape and epoxy putty are typically the easiest and most affordable routes for homeowners; however, they don’t always provide the best desired results and are not long-term solutions. A repair clamp is also user-friendly and would provide a strong seal that in most cases, will remain long-term.
Conversely, a repair coupling would require a degree of mechanical aptitude but has the ability to remain a permanent solution if properly installed for a specific application.
1. Patch with Epoxy Putty
Epoxy putty is an extremely user-friendly and versatile repair compound that adheres to just about any surface to plug leaks, fill in cracks, holes and more. Most epoxy products, like Oatey’s Fix-It Stick, are a two-part epoxy. When these parts are kneaded together by hand, a chemical reaction occurs that causes the mixture to heat up and harden in minutes. The putty can then be placed directly over a leak hole to create a watertight seal.
How To Use:
- Put on gloves to protect hands.
- Clean and dry all surfaces to be repaired.
- Smooth surfaces should be roughened by sanding or filing prior to application of putty.
- Twist or cut off required amount of putty.
- Roll and knead putty until color is uniform gray in color with no streaks.
- Apply mixed putty to surface, forcing into cracks or leak holes.
- Remove any excess material before hardening begins.
For use in damp or wet areas, work the material forcefully into the area and apply pressure until adhesion occurs. Full cure will occur in 24 hours. Place remaining product into plastic seal wrap and store in sealed container to extend shelf life.
2. Install Mechanical Pipe Repair Clamp
A variety of mechanical pipe repair clamps are available at any local hardware stores. Generally, these repair clamps will contain a metal sleeve with a fixed gasket and one to multiple fasteners. With the gasket positioned over the leak, the fasteners are tightened, and the sleeve will compress the gasket creating a watertight seal.
How To Use:
- Remove fastener(s).
- Open clamp and place on pipe.
- Position clamp with gasket over leak.
- Tighten fastener(s).
3. Use a Repair Coupling
A repair coupling is a length of pipe with compression fittings at each end. Each fitting contains a ferrule or gasket and threads on the ends of the pipe. When theses fittings are tightened, the ferrule or gasket is compressed and creates a watertight seal.
How To Use:
- Ensure you use a repair coupling that is an appropriate length for the repair and is compatible with the diameter/material of your pipe.
- Measure and cut out the section of pipe that is cracked/damaged using an appropriate cutting tool.
- Place compression fittings and ferrule or gasket on each of the cut ends of the pipe.
- Position the coupling between both ends of the pipe.
- Tighten compression fittings on both ends.
4. Seal with Silicone Tape
Finally, there are several self-fusing silicone tapes (or waterproofing repair tapes) on the market that can come in handy when trying to block a leak quickly. So, you might be asking yourself what we mean by “self-fusing.” Once silicone tape is wrapped around pipe, it undergoes an immediate chemical reaction. This causes the tape to bond to itself, harden and form an airtight seal around the weakened joint. The convenience of using this type of tape is that it doesn’t require the use of a messy adhesive or glue – silicone tape simply wraps to itself. On average, silicone tape will reach a complete bond in approximately 24 hours.
How To Use:
- Ensure pipe surface is clean and free from any debris, dirt or oil.
- Using tension, stretch tape around the pipe and overlap each layer by a minimum of 1/2".
- Wrap completely over the problem area and smooth tape once finished.
*Check manufacturer instructions and recommendations on individual products to ensure best practices for safe and effective application.