FIXME Plumbing > News & Blog > How to Fix a Leaking Pipe? Advice from a Plumber
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first aid kit for leaky pipes

How to Fix a Leaking Pipe? Advice from a Plumber

Leaks represent the majority of issues you may encounter with your home plumbing system. Any damaged component runs the risk of causing leaks. While leaks are usually easy to detect and fix, especially those that come from visible plumbing fixtures such as a faucet and shower, there are certain cases in which finding them could prove challenging. Leaks coming from the pipes are usually the hardest to find, because pipes are normally hidden underneath the sink, behind large fittings, or even within the walls.

Piping and Plumbing Fitting

Finding the source of a pipe leak is much harder than most homeowners think, not only because the pipes are out of sight but also because they, along with a range of connectors, form a complex network. To better understand how leaks form, to narrow your search of their possible sources, and to determine the best way to stop leaking pipe, here’s an overview of the structure of a home piping and plumbing fitting.

  • Adaptor – a connector with male or female threads at one end that joins pipes of different types.
  • Barb – another type of connector intended for hoses when they need to be fitted onto pipes. It has male threads at one end and a barbed tube at the other.
  • Coupling – a connector that connects two pipes of the same diameter and type. It comes in three types: normal, compression, and slip.
  • Cross – a connector with three inlets and one outlet or vice versa and connects four pipes.
  • Double Tapped Bushing – a short pipe with male threads on both ends and is used to fit a straight end hose or pipe.
  • Elbow – a fitting that is bent in a range of degrees to help water or other fluids flow to a different direction.
  • Sleeve – a type of connector that comes with a screw-like clamp and a rubber interior.
  • Plug and Cap – both are types of stopper, except a plug has male threads, while a cap has female threads.
  • Reducer – a type of fitting that helps reduce the flow of water or the amount of water being conveyed from one pipe to another.
  • Tee – unlike a cross, a tee only has an inlet and two outlets, which forms the letter “T”.
  • Union – with the same purpose as a coupling, except it is a temporary fitting, which means it can be readily removed when necessary.
  • Valve – comes in three types: throttling, non-return and isolation – this fitting allows you to adjust the flow of water.
  • Wye – like cross and tee, this connector joins three pipes and allows for a change in the elevation of one or two of the pipes.

Although not all of these fittings and connectors may be included in your home piping system, it is important to know them and their functions so that you can easily decide which one to install in case you need to update the piping system’s structure or fix a leaking pipe.

Causes of Pipe Leaks

Pipe leaks may come from anywhere and in order to fix them, you first need to accurately pinpoint their sources. There are a number of circumstances that may lead to pipe leaks:

  • Changes in Soil Density. The soil where your house is built on was originally slightly loose. It was compacted to improve its density and make it safe for constructing such a massive structure. It’s possible that certain areas were not properly compacted or the location of your home is prone to underground movements. If so, your home’s foundation may shift overtime, causing adjustments in the pipes.
  • Constant or Increasing Water Pressure. Although water tends to take the shape of its container, it can also exert enough force to break anything in its path when placed under high pressure. For instance, rapid flow or sudden change in the direction of flow can cause the pipes to burst. If not, the wear and tear it leaves is severe enough to significantly reduce the pipes’ functional life by many years.
  • Soil Pressure and Tree Roots. The weight of the soil and other loads above and around underground pipes can create enough pressure to crack the pipes, causing leaks. The water leaking out of the pipes attracts roots from nearby trees and shrubs, and through the cracks they burrow their way into your pipes. Overtime, these roots will grow to cause not only bigger cracks along the pipes but also blockage, which eventually become a major cause of backup in your sinks and drains.
  • Corrosion. This isn’t a big concern with newly constructed homes on the Sunshine Coast, but homes that are at least two decades old must be carefully inspected for rusted pipes. Not only does this pose some health problems as rust may be contaminating the water supply, but it could also indicate undetected leaks that could have been going on for some time. Rust can eat its way into the pipe’s material, weakening its tolerance against pressure as a result.
  • Poor Installation. Regardless if your waterlines are made from the highest quality materials, unless it’s installed by a highly skilled plumbing company like FIXME Plumbing, you can’t expect too much from it. Soon you’ll notice water jetting from one of the connectors or your water meter running wildly even if everything is shut. This is why it is imperative that you hire a qualified plumber to handle all of your plumbing installations. After all, a plumbing system would still fail even if only a portion of it is substandard.

Dangers of Leaky Pipes

A lot of households tend to neglect their pipe leak problems because they underestimate their effects. They only call a plumber when it’s too late, usually when the damage is already impossible to fix. The truth is that the water damage leaky pipes cause may come in different forms depending on where it is originating from. If it’s underground or in the basement near your home’s footing, it could saturate and weaken the soil. If it’s within your walls, it may damage the interior composition of the wall, and the moisture may attract microorganisms and pests as well as mould and mildew.

How to Fix a Leaking Pipe

For practical reasons, you must learn a few repairs to at least prevent minor issues from worsening or to make it easier for your plumbers to fix the problem when they arrive.

  • Identify the cause. The first step to all plumbing fixes is to find the cause of the problem, because that’s where you will base your method of repair from. Most pipe leaks, however, are caused by either damage along the pipe or a loose joint.
  • Close the main shutoff valve. As soon as you find the source of the leak, shut off the main valve right away. It can be difficult to fix a crack or hole or replace a broken fitting while water is still flowing through the plumbing system. In case the leak is occurring beyond the shutoff valve or along the community pipeline, call your local government for assistance.
  • First aid. If you don’t know how to fix the pipe leak or you don’t have the right tools in your home, you can perform a number of temporary measures to stop the leak at least until the plumber arrives. Try wrapping waterproof tape over the damaged area or rubbing the hole with a compound stick. Epoxy paste or a self-tapping plug may also be used.

Unless you are a professional plumber yourself, these are pretty much the least you can do to fix a leaky pipe. Calling in a plumber is the best option you have, especially because pipe leaks tend to propagate very quickly. You may be able to fix one spot only to find a burst on another. A plumber knows how to handle the job safely and efficiently to fix all leaks once and for all.

Author: FIXME Plumbing