How to Fix a Cracked Water Pipe
A broken water pipe is often the victim of poor insulation, or the result of cold weather conditions. Regardless of the cause, there’s no denying the frustration a broken water pipe causes. While you can always turn to professional help to repair your pipes, your checkbook will appreciate a fiscally responsible do-it-yourself solution. We’ll take you through the steps to repair your own broken water pipe, a process that will save you money and bring your water bills back from the brink.
1. Turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in your home.
2, Out With The Old. Using your tape measure and your marker, mark 6 to 8 inches away from the break on either side. If you are working with only 3 to 5 inches on either side, that is okay – just make sure you are cutting the entirety of the problem area out. Do not cut along a crack – cut outside of it. Once you have your marks, place your tubing cutter around the pipe. Tighten the blade on a mark, then rotate the cutter around the pipe once, and tighten it again. Repeat this process until you have cleanly cut through the pipe. Do this again on your other mark, and remove the problem piece from your pipe.
3. Measure the distance between the two cuts, and cut a new piece of pipe to the same length. Prepare your new piece, the couplings and the existing pipe with your Emory cloth or sandpaper. Hardware stores sell sandpaper that is specifically made for sanding copper pipe, and an Emory cloth is great for sanding the inside of couplings. Sand the ends of the new piece of pipe, the ends of the existing pipe, and the inside of both of your couplings. Now it’s time to prep your freshly sanded pieces with flux paste. Take your brush and apply a nice, even amount of flux paste to the ends of your new pipe, the inside of your couplings, and the sanded areas of your existing pipe.
Let’s assemble your new pieces! Push both couplings into the ends of your existing pipe, and then push your new piece into the other ends of those couplings, completing your new pipe segment.
It’s time to solder! Grab your solder roll and roll out 8 to 10 inches from your spool. On one end, bend the last couple of inches 90 degrees. This will help in applying the solder with the propane torch.
*NOTE – Many propane torch manufacturers supply safety goggles with their equipment. While you are not required to wear a full welding hood when soldering with a propane torch – it is important to adhere to the safety instructions provided with your tools, so be sure you have your safety eyewear ready to go.
With your propane torch, let’s heat up one of the couplings by moving the flame evenly from side to side. When the flux begins to sizzle, you will know you have heated the couplings enough and can remove the flame. Now take your piece of solder and touch the tip of one of the seams of your heated coupling – essentially the spot where the coupling and the pipe slip into each other. Keep the solder on the pipe until ¾ to 1 inch of solder has flowed all the way around the seam. You will likely have some excess solder after applying it to your seams. If so, grab a rag and wipe of the surplus to keep your pipe clean. Repeat the soldering process on all of your seams. After a couple of tries, you will begin to get a feel for how long to heat the flux, and how much solder to apply to your seams.
4. While you are waiting for everything to cool off, inspect your work! Check to make sure the solder has flowed all the way around the seams, and that you have wiped away any excess material. All good? Turn the water back on at the main shut-off valve after the couplings have cooled down.