Household plumbing pipes are installed in the walls and underneath the floor during construction. They carry fresh and waste water to and from the kitchen, bathrooms, utility rooms and around the outside of the house for use in the garden. Occasionally, a pipe in your home may start leaking and will require a repair, as long as you can turn the water off and it is not underground, you should be able to fix it yourself without having to call in an expensive plumber.

Pipes typically come in PVC plastic, copper, cast iron, galvanised steel and brass with fittings made out of the same materials to connect them all together as well as to the drains and taps or faucets. Pipes don’t typically move although they do experience vibrations from turning appliances or taps/faucets on and off. They usually start leaking due to age or corrosion and can sometimes be damaged by freezing water.

First Locate The Leaking or Damaged Pipe

If your plumbing has started leaking, you will need to trace the leak back to the problem area in the pipe. Water tends to flow well, especially through gaps and slits in the walls and brickwork so tracing the leak may be a bit tricky. Water leaking out of a wall in one area may not be coming from the section of pipe directly behind it, the water may have flowed down the pipe or wall some way from the original leak. Keep this in mind when trying to locate the leak.

If the leak is in a bathroom behind tiles or in an expensive area of your home and your are not completely sure where the actual pipe damage is, it may be worth your while to call in a plumber as they have the experience and tools to more specifically locate the problem area and make a less conspicuous entry.

How To Repair The Leaking Pipe

The repair you need to make to the pipe depends on what part of the pipe is damaged and leaking and what material the pipe is made from. Here are some of the more common failures and how to fix them.

Make sure that the water supply to the pipe is turned off before attempting to cut into or remove any sections of pipe or fittings.

Replace A Copper Pipe Fitting

  1. Clean the inside of the pipe fitting with a wire brush or emery paper so that it shines.
  2. Clean the outside of the copper pipe in the same way until it shines as well.
  3. Apply a thin coat of solder flux onto the inside of the fitting and the outside of the pipe on the shiny areas.
  4. Insert the pipe into the fitting so that it is correctly seated and turn it to spread the flux, wipe off any additional flux.
  5. Use a propane torch to heat up the joint until it is hot enough to melt the solder. Push the solder wire in around the entire perimeter of the joint.
  6. Wipe off any excess solder.

Replace A Copper Compression Fitting

  1. Loosen the existing fitting by loosening the nut and pulling out the compression ring.
  2. Remove the fitting.
  3. Slide the new nut and compression ring onto the pipe.
  4. Insert the pipe into the fitting.
  5. Slide the compression ring into place and secure the nut with a pipe wrench.

Remove A Section Of Copper Pipe

  1. Slide a pipe cutter onto the copper pipe.
  2. Tighten the cutting wheel until it gently scores the surface of the pipe.
  3. Rotate the pipe cutter around the pipe once and then tighten the pipe cutter slightly.
  4. Repeat until the pipe has been cut through.
  5. Do this again on the other end of the section to be removed.
  6. Remove the cut out section of pipe.

Patch A Rigid Copper Pipe Section With Plastic Pipe

  1. Once you have cut out the damaged section as outlined above, measure the gap between the pipe ends.
  2. Cut a piece of plastic pipe to suite the gap between the copper pipe and make allowance for the new fittings.
  3. Solder the copper section of the transition fitting onto the copper pipe ends on both sides as outlined above.
  4. Screw the brass and plastic sections of the fitting onto the soldered on fitting.
  5. Check that the plastic pipe is correctly sized by dry fitting it.
  6. Use PVC cement on both sides of the plastic pipe and on the joints. Slide the pipe into the two joints to bridge the gap.
  7. Allow the cement to cure for a few hours as directed.

Replace A PVC Pipe Fitting

  1. Cut the old pipe fitting out with a hacksaw.
  2. Lightly sand the end of the pipe to remove the burrs.
  3. Apply PVC cement to the inside of the new PVC fitting and onto the outside of the pipe.
  4. Slide the pipe fitting all the way onto the pipe, twist it around as you insert it so that the cement is spread out evenly all around the joint.
  5. Remove any excess cement and allow the joint to cure for a few hours as directed.

Replace A Threaded Iron or Steel Pipe

  1. Cut through the damaged pipe with a hacksaw.
  2. Unscrew the two cut off sections from the fittings on each end.
  3. Replace the old pipe with two new nipples with a centre union.
  4. Apply PTFE plumbing tape to the pipe nipples on both ends.
  5. Screw one nipple into the fitting and tighten it with a wrench.
  6. Slide the ring nut onto the installed nipple and then screw the hubbed nut onto the nipple.
  7. Screw the threaded nut onto the second nipple and screw the second nipple into the second fitting.
  8. Tighten the nipples and the threaded nut.
  9. Slide the ring nut onto the centre of the union and screw it on.

Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments section below and we will add them onto the list.

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New Copper Union by Adam
Cover Image: Pipe by Muhammad Ali. All images in this post as used under CC BY 2.0