In most cases, a leaky water pipe isn’t a catastrophe. Most piping systems fail at the fitting joints, and the trouble starts with a small drip.
You can repair such leaks temporarily with a number of materials, such as plumber’s epoxy putty or a neoprene patch. Plumber’s epoxy putty is made for temporarily stopping fitting leaks.
To use it, mix the putty by kneading it in your hands. Then spread it around the joint, squeeze it against the pipe, and smooth out the surface.
To attach a neoprene patch, first shut off the house water at the main valve—usually located on the house side of the water meter—and the valve on top of the water heater.
Also turn off the gas or electricity to the water heater. Drain the water in the leaking line by opening the faucets in the lowest-elevation sink in your house.
Once the line is empty, dry off the outside of the pipe. Then cut a piece of patching material to size, wrap it around the pipe, and hold it in place with hose clamps.
How to Fix Water Pipe Leaks Permanently
The temporary repairs above may last a few days, but it’s possible to make a permanent repair right away. To do this:
- Shut off and drain the water as described above.
- Remove the patch. Heat the joint with a propane torch.
- Pull the joint apart and discard the fitting.
- Prepare for soldering by cleaning the ends of the pipes and the female ends of a new fitting with emery cloth and then with steel wool. The pipes should be free of old solder and other stains before your try to solder them to a new fitting.
- Cover the ends of the pipes and the inside of the fitting with soldering flux.
- Push the fitting onto the ends of the pipes, then start heating the joint with the propane torch. (As a safety precaution, make sure to avoid drafts whenever you use a propane torch.)
- Test the joint by touching the top with solder. If the solder melts and goes into the joint, keep adding solder until it drips out the bottom. If the solder doesn’t melt, continue heating the joint and try again.
- When both sides of the joint are soldered, let the pipe cool for about 10 minutes, then turn on the water.