Repairing the Problem
A Fine Mess
Never thaw frozen pipes with an open flame. Doing so could start a fire, regardless of the type of pipe. And be careful when using an electrical appliance for thawing. Should the pipe burst and spray water, you run the risk of electrocution. Finally, never use electrical tools or appliances to heat a pipe if you're wet or there's standing water about.
As mentioned, pipe breaks typically fall into three categories: pinhole leaks, hairline cracks, and big breaks. Of these, pinhole leaks and hairline cracks are breaks that many do-it-yourselfers feel confident about fixing. Most experts recommend hiring a plumber to fix anything larger than a hairline crack.
Electrician's tape or duct tape is a quick fix for pinhole leaks. All you have to do is wrap it firmly around the pipe where the leak is. Be sure to dry the pipe off thoroughly before you do to give the tape the best chance for sticking in place. This type of repair won't last very long, due to the amount of pressure in the pipe, but it should last until you can make a more permanent repair.
You can repair hairline cracks with a pipe clamp repair kit or fiberglass-resin tape. Pipe clamp kits come in different configurations, but typically consist of a rubber or neoprene sleeve and a couple of clamps that fit together and hold the sleeve in place. Fiberglass-resin tape is available pre-packaged in pipe repair kits. Some tapes have to be mixed with epoxy before they're applied; others come impregnated with the epoxy, which is activated by soaking it in water. This product can also be used as a permanent fix for pinhole leaks.
For either fix, first make sure the line has no pressure in it by turning off the water and opening a faucet or release valve. Next, clean the area around the break with a scrub pad. If the pipe is corroded, remove the corrosion with sandpaper, steel wool,or a wire brush. You want a smooth, clean surface for the best fix.
If you're using a pipe clamp kit, you'll need a screwdriver to install it. Place the sleeve around the break. If it has a seam, locate it on the opposite side of the pipe, away from the break. Then, cinch the clamps around the sleeve and tighten them firmly.
If you're using fiberglass-resin tape, follow the package instructions. You'll have to work fast, as the epoxy in the tape sets up fast. Start wrapping at least 1" away from the break. Wrap the tape back and forth around the pipe to at least 1" on the other side of the tape. Wrap snugly and smooth it with your hands as you go for a tight sealant to keep air bubbles from getting caught between layers.
When the repair is complete, open the water back up and check for leaks. Wait about 30 to 40 minutes before doing so if you used fiberglass-resin tape so it can cure completely.
As mentioned previously, anything larger than a hairline crack typically requires replacing the damaged section of pipe. If it's a very large crack necessitating a major repair, it's best to hire a plumber.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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