The average cost to repair a leaking pipe is $150 to $800. That doesn't include the price to repair damage caused by the leak.
If you've got a leak you need to take care of it as soon as possible because the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets.
With it costing so much to call out a plumber, we can't blame you for thinking about taking care of the problem on your own. That's why we want to teach you how to stop a leaking pipe so you don't have to.
Read on and we'll tell you everything you need to get the job done right. Of course, if it's more than just a drip, you may want to keep that plumber's number handy.
First Things First
Check out this article to learn more about how much you can save simply by fixing a plumbing leak: Wrench it up Plumbing and Mechanical - Fixing a leak can save you money.
Then decide if this is something you can handle or if you need a pro. These plumbing troubleshooting steps will help you decide which is best for you.
If you choose to move forward with the repair yourself, there are four things you must always do before you can repair a leak. They are as follows:
1. Turn off the Water Supply
Once you've located a leak, the first thing you should do is stop water from flowing through the lines.
If the leak is in a drainpipe, like the ones leading from your kitchen sink drain, you only need to stop using them. You don't have to turn anything off.
To stop water from leaking out of a supply line, you need to shut the water off at its source.
Each plumbing region of your home has its own water supply valve. If your bathtub's water supply line is leaking, you only have to turn off the supply valve for that bathroom.
Main Water Lines
If you're uncertain of where the water is coming from, find the main water valve to your home and turn it clockwise. Main water valves are usually located in the basement or in the crawlspace under your home on the street-facing side.
Call your water company and ask them to turn off the water to your home if you can't locate the main water valve or it's an emergency situation.
Sprinkler System Leaks
Find the sprinkler valve right before the main water supply valve. In most cases, it's the second valve downstream of the sprinkler system on the same side as your main water valve. If you can't find it or have questions, check your sprinkler system owner's manual.
2. Access Water Leaks Behind a Wall
To access water leaks behind a wall, you'll have to breach the wall where you see water leaking through.
Use a keyhole saw to make a hole in the wall large enough for you to see behind it. When you've located the source of the leak, enlargen the hole until you can get to it and work with ease.
3. Drain the Pipes and Dry Them Off
If a leak is in the supply line for a specific fixture, turn on the faucet for that fixture.
Otherwise, turn on all the fixtures for your home starting with the lowest one. This is usually going to be a faucet in the basement or crawlspace or a spigot on the outside of the home.
You won't need to drain the pipes if the leak is in a drain line.
Once you've drained the pipes, dry them off with a clean cloth. Use the same cloth or a bucket to catch stray water while you're working on the pipes.
4. Determine the Type of Leak
There are several things that affect how you should repair a leaking pipe including:
The Source of the leak
A leak from a hole in the middle of a straight pipe needs a different fix from a leak caused by a loose pipe fitting.
The Type of pipes
Copper pipes and PVC pipes are the most common types of plumbing pipes. Each type of pipe requires different materials to repair them.
Low-Pressure Lines Versus High-Pressure Lines
Low-pressure lines drain water away from your home and are sometimes called drainpipes. High-pressure lines supply water to your home and are always under pressure. The same fixes that work for a low-pressure line won't work for high-pressure lines.
How to Stop a Leaking Pipe Temporarily
There are times when you'll need to apply a temporary fix first and wait on a more permanent solution. Perhaps a plumber can't get to you for a while or maybe you're going on vacation and don't have time.
No matter the reason, it's important to understand that the following repairs won't hold up forever. You'll need to follow up with a permanent fix or you'll end up with another leak before long.
Plumber's Epoxy Putty
Plumber's epoxy putty is a soft, malleable material that can seal small holes and leaks in some pipes and fixtures. It works on straight pipes and joints made of metals like brass, copper and galvanized steel. You can't use epoxy to repair plastic pipes made of PVC, CPVC, and PEX.
As you work with epoxy putty, it'll heat up and can irritate bare skin. For this reason, it's important to wear latex or nitrile gloves while handling it. We suggest these types of gloves because they are thin and you'll still be able to conduct intricate work.
To repair metal pipes with plumber's epoxy putty, follow these steps:
1. Follow the package instructions to combine and activate the epoxy.
There are one- and two-part plumbing epoxies. The way you activate and use them depends on the brand so follow the package instructions for the best results.
One-part plumbing epoxies aren't as strong as two-part epoxies because they need heat to cure. It's hard to apply enough heat to the putty in plumbing situations so it's difficult to get a full cure. The upside is that you can use them straight out of the tube or container without mixing them.
Two-part epoxies cure with a chemical reaction caused by a resin and a hardener. One is usually white, while the other is dark grey. In most cases, you only need to rip off a piece of each and mix them together by hand until they're an even, light-grey color.
2. Mold the putty around the leak.
Work the putty all the way around the pipe so it covers the leak. The putty should form a layer that's about 1/2 inches thick. Make a watertight seal by tapering the edges of the putty to the pipe.
3. Let the putty cure for 5 to 10 minutes and turn on the water.
It won't take long for the putty to set but once it's in place, you'll need to leave it be for at least five minutes to cure. After the brief waiting period is up, turn on the water and check your work for leaks.
Plumber's tape, also called Teflon tape, is a special kind of tape you can use to stop leaks at threaded pipe joints in low-pressure lines.
Follow these steps to use plumber's tape the right way:
1. Clean the male threads.
The male threads of a pipe are threads that fit inside of another pipe. Wipe them off with a clean cloth so the tape will form a seal around the threads.
2. Hold the end of the tape in place.
Use your thumb to hold the end of the tape in place at the second thread from the edge of the pipe. The tape needs to be flat and perpendicular to the length of the pipe. Make sure the tape doesn't bunch up.
3. Wrap the tape around the pipe.
Figure out which way the threads go and wrap the tape around the pipe in the opposite direction. Work the tape away from the pipe end four to six times and overlap the tape as you go. Keep enough tension on the tape so there is a snug fit the whole way around.
4. Break the tape and refit the pipe.
Once you finish wrapping the tape around the pipe use your thumb and forefinger to break the tape from the role. Smooth the loose tape edge across the threads and double-check that there is no bunching. Now that the tape is secure, you can refit the pipe and run some water to check for leaks.
Repair clamps create a tight seal around small leaks using rubber gaskets. When choosing a repair clamp select one that is the same size and length as the leaking pipe.
If you choose a clamp that's too large, it won't fit tight enough around the pipe to secure the leak. If it's too small, you won't be able to get it around the pipe at all.
1. Line up the rubber gasket with the pipe leak.
Find the leak in your pipe and make a mark so you can see it without trouble. Note the location of the rectangular gasket on the inside of the clamp. Put the gasket over the hole so it forms a complete seal over the leak, and hold it in place while you secure it.
2. Secure the gasket with the clamp and tighten the bolts.
Fit the clamps around the pipe and feed the bolts through the holes on the clamps. Screw the nuts to the back of the bolts and tighten them until the clamp doesn't move. Be careful not to over-tighten or you may cause the pipe to burst.
Use a Slip Coupling to Repair Leaks Permanently
There are two ways you can apply a permanent fix to a leaky pipe: Replace the pipe altogether or use a slip coupling.
If you need to replace the pipe, you're better off calling a plumber. If you can manage it and want to fix it yourself so the repair is up to code, you can use a slip coupling.
A slip coupling is a special pipe fitting with two ends that pushes or slips over pre-existing pipes. You can cut out a stretch of faulty pipe and replace it with a slip coupling to repair a leak.
When choosing a slip coupling, make sure it matches the size and material of your existing pipe.
Fittings are always larger than their packages say they are. This is because pipes get measured by their internal diameter, but their external diameter is larger due to the pipe material. To make it easier to find a match, pipes and fittings use a nominal sizing system.
To install a slip coupling follow these steps:
1. Mark the slip coupling length on the pipe.
Find the leak in your pipe and hold the slip coupling up to it so the fitting extends out from either side of the leak. Draw a line on the pipe at each end of the slip coupling with a magic marker. These marks will be your guide when you cut the pipe.
2. Cut out the leaky pipe area.
Use a pipe cutter or hacksaw to remove the leaky part of the pipe. Make your cuts about one inch away from your marks on the inside. This will make sure you still have enough pipe length to work with when you attach the coupling.
3. Remove burs, inside and out, where you made your cuts.
Use a deburring tool or a rolled-up piece of sandpaper to remove any burs on both ends of the pipe. Removing the burs ensures you have a smooth surface to work with and prevents future leaks.
4. Fit the coupling over both ends of the pipe.
Push one end of the coupling onto one end of the exposed pipe. You'll have to push it far enough in that you can connect the other end of the coupling to the other end of the exposed pipe. Once the coupling is on, position it so that there is an equal amount of coupling on either side of the pipe.
5. Secure the coupling.
Some couplings will prevent water leaks without any extra work. You need to tighten others with a wrench or by hand before the job is complete. The instructions on your packaging will outline what to do.
It's Time to Get to Work!
Now that you know how to stop a leaking pipe, it's time to get to work!
When you're done, don't forget to stop back by and tell us how it went. Just use the comments below to let us know.
Before you start your repair, you may also want to take a look at our list of plumbing do's and don'ts.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about SFGate or our articles, don't hesitate to contact us. We'd love to hear from you!