Stopping a leak -- for short term


February 12, 1994|By Gene Austin | Gene Austin,Knight-Ridder News Service

The thin copper pipes that carry hot and cold water in most homes are normally durable and long-lasting, but sometimes develop leaks that can cause severe damage.

Making temporary repairs keeps water pipes -- for toilets, sinks, showers -- in service until permanent repairs are made.

Simply turning off the water at the main valve can prevent a burst pipe or other plumbing emergency, such as an overflowing toilet or tub, from becoming a home flood.

Homeowners should familiarize themselves with the location of the main shut-off valve, as well as individual ones for toilets, sinks and tubs. These individual shut-off valves are often on inlet pipes under the fixtures.

Since water valves tend to bind and become hard to close, it pays to spray the stems occasionally with a little lubricant and turn the handles to keep them free. The all-purpose lubricant WD-40 sold at most hardware stores and home centers, is a good choice.

If a water pipe develops a leak, turn off the main water valve.

Following are some temporary-repair options:

* Clamp-type pipe sealers used to temporarily repair a leak are available at some hardware stores. These generally consist of two mating plates that are screwed together around the pipe. A rubber gasket is placed over the leak and compressed against it by the clamp.

* Ordinary hose clamps, sold at hardware stores and auto-parts stores, and a piece of sheet rubber can temporarily seal many pipe leaks. Rubber can be cut from an old inner tube from an automobile or bicycle. The hose clamps -- the type with screw tighteners -- should be a bit larger in diameter than the pipe. To hTC seal a small leak, one clamp compressing rubber directly over the hole will often do. For larger cracks or holes, extend the rubber well past the defect on both sides and use several clamps spaced along the rubber. When the rubber and clamps are in position, turn the clamp screws tight.

* Repair tape will seal small holes or leaks at pipe joints. This "melding" tape is wrapped tightly around the defect and bonds to itself and the pipe to form a solid seal. Melding tape can be mail-ordered from Improvements, a Cleveland firm ( [800] 642-2112, for about $13 plus shipping for a 16-foot roll of tape).

It would be wise to prepare a small kit of emergency pipe-repair devices and keep the kit in an easily accessible place -- near the main water valve, for example.

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