Dealing With Frozen and Burst Pipes

Nailing Through a Pipe

Nailing a loose floorboard back into position can have serious consequences if you hadn’t realized that there was a pipe run underneath. If you do nail through a pipe, leave the nail there. If you have already pulled it out, put it back. Water will still leak but only slowly, causing less immediate damage. Switch off the water supply feeding the pipe and make a repair.

Sealing a Leak

Leaks caused by splits or holes in copper pipes should be permanently repaired by inserting a new section of pipe. But until you can do this, make emergency repairs. Drain the pipe. Cut a length of garden hose to cover the leak. Slit the hose lengthways to cover the pipe – put the slit of the hose on the opposite side of the pipe to the hole, and bind it with two or three jubilee clips or wire loops twisted tight with pliers. Alternatively, use two-part epoxy putty. Clean the pipe on either side of the hole with wire wool, mix the putty and press it into the hole, building it up to a thickness of between 3-6mm. Let the putty ‘cure’ then bind the repair with self-adhesive tape. The only other reason for a leak is a mechanical failure at a joint. A ‘weeping’ compression joint can often be cured by tightening the nut that seems to be leaking by a quarter-turn. Use two spanners – one to hold the joint body firm, the other to turn the nut. Beware: over-tightening may crush the olive and the joint will have to be replaced with a new one.

Lagging Pipes

One of the most common plumbing problems is caused by water freezing in pipes. Plastic pipes won’t burst, but copper ones will. Cold water pipe runs in unheated areas of the house should be lagged. Foam-backed plastic tubing, available in different diameters, is sold pre-slit for fitting, and simply slips around the pipe. Successive lengths should be butted end to end and sealed with a PVC adhesive tape. In winter, don’t forget to lag any runs of exterior pipes that feed outdoor taps.

Solvent Weld

If you are joining plastic pipes with solvent weld, be aware that is is highly flammable. Close the tin after use as it evaporates quickly. You’ll need to work fast as solvent welds set firm in minutes – although it doesn’t achieve its full strength for 24 hours, so avoid testing pipes with water for a least a day. Before joining water supply pipes, clean the inside of the fitting and outside the pipe with special cleaning fluid.

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