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There are many causes for leaking pipes and there are bound to be leakages from wear and tear. Regardless, leaking pipes can be frustrating. The good news is that there are a few easy methods to repair them on your own.
There are two methods commonly used to seal a leaking pipe. These are using epoxy and using a pipe wrap kit. Both of these options can be used t repair PVC and copper pipes. If done well, they can be permanent solutions.
Whether you want to repair a leaking pipe or pipe joint, the methods are similar. In this article, I’ll talk about a range of options best suited for each scenario. I’ll also discuss the causes for leaking pipes and when to consider if a more serious issue is at hand.
Pipe Sweating Vs Leaking
Sometimes when a pipe is sweating, you may think the pipe is leaking when it’s not. “Pipe sweating” refers to the instance where a pipe has condensation or water dripping off of it and no leak is present. It also looks slightly different from a leaking pipe because a large portion of the pipe or the entire pipe may appear to be wet.
When there is a leak, however, you will notice the water meter is still running even when you turn the water mains off. Sweating pipes can still cause water damage though. You may notice mold or mildew growth and other issues due to the moisture build-up.
If you notice that your pipes are sweating, you can insulate your pipes using foam pipe insulation. This can prevent condensation – sweating – from taking place. You can also place a dehumidifier near the area where the pipes sweat. This will help to draw away the moisture from the area.
What Are the Signs of a Leaking Pipe?
Some leaking pipes are easy to detect, especially when they are visible. However, sometimes the pipes that are in the wall or underground may be leaking and it is a little more difficult to detect.
Thankfully, there are some signs to look out for that indicate a leaking pipe when it is not visible.
The more of these signs you notice, the more likely it is that you have a leaking pipe. It is important to address it as soon as possible since leaking pipes inside the wall or underground can cause structural damage.
Your Water Bill Has Increased
When a pipe is leaking the water flow will increase because even if the faucets are closed, the water continues to run. Sometimes you cannot see these leaks and you notice your water bill is higher, even though you used the same amount of water.
If you notice a sudden increase in your water bill and you haven’t consumed a lot more water compared to the previous month then there’s a good chance that you have a leaking pipe.
You Notice Wet Spots
Another sign that you may have leaking pipes is you notice damp spots on the wall. Although this can cause damage to the wall and surrounding areas, it is a good indicator of the area where the pipe is leaking.
You may also notice peeling or bubbling of the paint around the area of the wall that is damp.
You Notice Mold Growth
Mold growth usually signals that an area has too much moisture. If you notice mold growing on the walls and it is located in a specific area, then it may mean that the is a leaking pipe.
This is usually the case when a pipe has been leaking for some time without being detected. It also helps to look out for other signs along with mold growth if you are unsure if it is due to a leaking pipe.
Your Walls Are Cracking
If you notice your walls are cracking and it is happening suddenly, then it is a sign that there is water damage to the structure of the building.
This is most commonly due to leaking pipes inside the wall. It can be hard to detect this so looking out for sudden cracking along with other signs could be a good way to tell if there is a leak.
Your Meter Still Runs After You Switch it Off
It’s not always easy to detect a leaking pipe. If there are no obvious signs but you notice that your water bill has increased then it’s a good idea to use your meter to determine if there is a potential leakage.
This method works by switching off the water supply to your home, then letting a tap run until it is empty. If you check your meter and the dial is still moving then it indicates a potential leak. Some water meters come with a leak indicator.
Your Water Pressure Is Low
While there are many other reasons for low water pressure, if you notice a sudden drop in the pressure and have ruled out other causes, then it may be a leaking pipe.
A good way to tell if the low pressure is from a water leak is to turn all your fixtures off and if the pressure increases when you turn them back on, then it is likely a leakage.
Extreme Temperature Changes
Freezing temperatures in particular can cause a lot of damage to pipes and other plumbing systems. Extreme changes in temperature can lead to rapidly expanding and contracting, resulting in leakages and all sorts of other problem
Detecting the Type of Leak
It is important to determine the type of leak before choosing the right method to repair it. While some leaks might be obvious and lead to flooding, others might be smaller and less noticeable. Let’s discuss the different kinds of leaks.
Leak is in The Pipe
If you can detect the pipe that is leaking, then you can investigate where the leak is coming from. Many times, it could be from a hole in the pipe.
These can be small or larger leaks. If there are multiple leaks because of corrosion, particularly in copper pipes, then it is better to replace sections of the pipe rather than trying to patch them up.
Here, it may be a good idea to get a plumber to replace the pipes. Some PVC piping can be easy to do yourself, but it may be a little more difficult with copper pipes. If the leak is smaller, then it can be repaired with a sealant. I’ll talk about sealant options in the next section of this article.
Leak is From the Joint
If the leak is from the joint of the pipe, then it’s as simple as tightening the joint. In some cases, you may need to use a sealant to repair the leaking joint. If the joint is threaded then you’ll need to buy a thread sealant from a hardware store.
Common Reasons for Leaking Pipes
Leaking pipes are not uncommon, however, there are reasons for pipes to develop leaks. Knowing what these are can help you to prevent future leaks or to be on the lookout for potential leaks.
Your Pipes Are Corroded
If you’ve got copper pipes then they may corrode over time. One of the most common causes is rust. Corrosion happens when there is a chemical reaction that takes place when the pipe is in contact with environmental substances.
The older the pipes, the more likely they are to start corroding. The method you can use to repair them depends on how serious the damage is. In some cases the pipes that are corroded need to be replaced entirely.
You Have a Clog
Clogged pipes lead to a pressure build-up. This can easily cause damage and lead to leaking pipes. That’s why it’s important to look out for signs that your drain may be clogged. One of the biggest signs is when the water takes much longer to drain or drains slowly.
Your Pressure is High
High water pressure has been known to cause all sorts of plumbing issues, including leaking pipes and pipe joints. That’s because the water causes a pressure build-up that is too strong for the pipes to handle.
Your Pipes Were Installed Incorrectly
It’s really important that pipes are installed by a plumber who knows how to do it correctly. Quick fixes may cause bigger issues than you might think. One of these includes leaking pipes and pipe joints.
If you’re having issues consistently along with leaking pipes, you can get a plumber to check for any issues with the installation of your pipes and other plumbing systems.
You Have Damaged Joints
Joints are what keep all the pipes together. They are also used for corners or other areas where a change in direction is needed. The joints take a lot of pressure and are susceptible to wear and tear. Thus they are a common reason for leakages.
What Is the Best Sealant for Leaking Pipes?
Sometimes the leaking pipe is visible and fixing it is a little easier. If you detected a leaking pipe inside the wall or underground, and you were able to reach it, then you could also use the following methods to repair it. These options also work best when the pipe is not seriously damaged or corroded.
Epoxy putty is commonly used to seal holes that cause pipes to leak. It is a great solution because it sets relatively fast and does a good job at repairing the leak. It can also be used on different materials, including copper pipes and PVC pipes.
To use epoxy to fix a leaking pipe, you need to start by making sure the area where you want to apply the epoxy is dry. If the pipe is still attached, make sure to switch the main water supply off and dry the area where the leakage is.
If you can detach the pipe you want to repair, then just make sure the area around the hole is dry. Then you’ll want to mix the compounds to form the epoxy putty and immediately apply it to the area on the pipe that you want to repair.
You should mold the putty into place and then give it around an hour to dry properly before reinstalling the repaired pipe or restoring the water.
For more serious or persistent leaks, you can get a plumber to install epoxy pipe lining which will help to prevent future leaks.
When the leak is very small, a compound stick is a good option to repair it. You simply rub the compound stick on the area where the leak is and it seals it.
Unlike epoxy, compound sticks also work while the pipe is still attached and the water is still flowing.
You can usually get a compound stick from your local hardware store. If you try to seal the leak with a compound stick and it doesn’t work, then the leak may be too big or require another approach, like using epoxy.
What Is the Best Way to Seal a Leaking Pipe?
Earlier, I discussed ways that you can repair a hole or small leaks in your pipes. Sometimes, the leak could be a little more serious or could be at the joint of the pipe.
In these instances, epoxy or compound sticks may not be a good enough solution. Here are some other solutions for sealing a leaking pipe.
If the leak in your pipe is big then using a pipe clamp to repair it is a good option. You can buy one from your local hardware store. They are fairly easy to use and they are a cost-effective way to repair leaking pipes.
Pipe clamps come with a metal sleeve with a rubber pad inside. To repair the leaking pipe, you wrap the rubber pad over the area where the pipe is leaking. Then, you apply the metal sleeve and fix it in place with screws and nuts.
A wrap, also known as a pipe repair kit, can be used to repair leaking pipes and works really well for copper pipes. You can get this from your local hardware store. To repair the pipe, you’ll need to ensure the area is clean and dry.
For copper pipes, sand the area down to remove any rust and dirt. Once the area is dry and clean, wrap it with the pipe repair wrap. You’ll want to stretch the wrap as you’re applying it and continue wrapping until the wrap runs out.
Many wraps require a special pipe repair bandage to be wrapped on top. This can be used for a more solid and permanent repair.
Making Your Own Clamp
If you cannot get to a hardware store and you need to urgently repair a leaking pipe in your home then you can make your own clamp. You’ll need a piece of heavy rubber or something similar like a rubber patch and a C-clamp.
To repair the pipe, you’ll need to dry and clean the area. Once that’s done, you can wrap the pipe where the leak is with the rubber patch and then clamp it in place with the C-clamp. If done correctly, this should hold well until you can apply a more permanent solution.
How to Repair Leaking Pipe Joints
Pipe joints, also known as compression joints may also start leaking. There are different types of compression joints. These may differ according to the material of the pipes. The most common materials used for pipes and plumbing are PVC and copper.
PVC piping is a newer plumbing solution due to its flexibility, low cost, and durability. Copper pipes tend to be more expensive and are susceptible to corrosion. Both, however, are prone to becoming damaged and leaking.
Repairing PVC Pipe Joints
The compression joints used will differ according to the material of the pipe. For leakages in PVC pipe joints, you can use epoxy or repair tape. You can get these at your local hardware store.
You simply need to make sure that the area that needs to be repaired has been dried properly. Then, you can either apply the epoxy to the area where the leak is and let it set and dry for about an hour.
If you’re using repair tape then you’ll also need to make sure the area is dry before wrapping the damaged area.
Repairing Copper Pipe Joints
Pipe joints on copper pipes are usually soldered. Over time, these may start to develop leaks. One of the best ways to repair a copper pipe joint is by soldering it. You’ll need to start by making sure the area is dry before you attempt to repair it.
Next, sand the area to remove any corrosion around the area. You’ll then need to apply soldering flux around the leaking area and use a heat torch to remove the old solder. Then apply new solder and give the pipe a few minutes to cool down before turning the water back on.
If the leak continues, you may need to replace the entire compression joint. If you’re confident enough, you’ll need to remove the old one using a heat torch and then solder the new fitting.
The Bottom Line
Depending on how serious the leak is and how many resources you have available, fixing the pipe can be done at home. Many of the solutions discussed in this article may also be permanent fixes if done well.
Sometimes, however, it may be good to call a plumber. Especially when neither of these solutions has worked or you suspect there are more serious issues with your plumbing.