When a copper water pipe leaks or breaks, a quick phone call to your local plumber is usually in order. But until your plumber arrives on the scene, you'll want to know how to temporarily take care of your plumbing woes. As a homeowner, there's a good chance you may not be comfortable with performing your own copper pipe repairs with solder.
The following offers several ways you can patch up your copper pipes without having to solder your pipes. As a reminder, make sure the main water supply is shut off before attempting any of the following solutions.
Stop Pinhole Leaks with Repair Clamps
For a simple pinhole leak, you can place a pipe repair clamp over the area of the leak. The repair clamp consists of a steel band on top of a thick rubber lining that covers the problem area and offers a snug fit against the pipe. In most cases, a repair clamp is good enough to stop pinhole leaks until your plumber can deliver a more permanent fix.
First, mix a paste of baking soda and vinegar and use it to clean off any corrosion present on the copper pipe surface. Once everything's cleaned off, slip the clamp over the pipe and position the rubber lining directly over the pinhole. Afterwards, carefully tighten the clamp and make sure it has a snug fit over the pipe and check for any leaks.
Cover Leaks with Self-Fusing Repair Tape
Another way you can temporarily stop minor copper pipe leaks in their tracks is by using a little self-fusing repair tape. As the name implies, the self-fusing repair tape is designed to adhere to itself as well as the surface it's stuck to. Unlike other tapes that use conventional adhesives, self-fusing repair tape won't lose its grip if it becomes wet. This makes it ideal for use on plumbing and other repairs that require a waterproof solution.
Locate the source of the leak and cut a length of self-fusing repair tape. Make sure that it's long enough to cover the leak as well as itself for the entire diameter of the pipe. Apply the tape over the leak, making sure to keep the tape as taut as possible as you wrap it around the pipe.
Use Epoxy to Deal with Joint Leaks and Small Cracks
For small cracks and leaking pipe joints, you can use epoxy putty as a temporary fix. Simply mix the appropriate amount of epoxy to cover your copper pipe leak, mold it into the shape you need and place it on the damaged area. The amount of time needed for curing usually depends on the epoxy manufacturer's specifications. You can also wrap the patched pipe with duct tape to reinforce the repaired area.
Keep in mind that epoxy curing times can vary among manufacturers. In the meantime, it has to be kept dry as it cures, which means you may have to wait a little longer to turn on your main water supply.
Repair Burst Pipes with Compression Couplings
Compression repair couplings are designed to deal with burst pipes, and they require you to cut out a small section of damaged pipe in order to work. The removed section is then replaced with the repair coupling until your plumber is able to permanently solder new copper pipe in its place.
Using a compression repair coupling is a bit more complicated than the other repair methods mentioned so far. However, it's still a simpler affair than replacing damaged pipe with solder and a propane blowtorch:
- Take the compression nut and brass ring off the coupling and position the coupling so that it sits squarely over the middle of the damaged pipe. Use a grease pen to mark where you'll need to make your cuts, making sure to mark each end approximately 1 inch shorter than the actual coupling size.
- Place an empty bucket underneath the damaged pipe section to catch any remaining water in the pipe. Next, use a hacksaw or pipe cutter to remove the damaged pipe, using the grease pen marks as your guide.
- Reassemble the compression repair coupling and slip it over the ends of the remaining pipe sections. Hand tighten both ends and then use two wrenches to hold one end of the coupling as you tighten the other end.
- Turn on the main water supply and check for any leaks.
The compression repair coupling should hold until your plumbing contractor is able to come in and make repairs.