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Temporary Pipe Leak Fixes

Being prepared to defend your home's plumbing system against a sudden burst pipe can save you thousands of dollars in damage. Think of these quick, easy fixes as plumbing first aid. They slow or stop a leak long enough to give you time to enlist the services of a qualified plumber during regular working hours. Remember: Plumbers charge double time nights and weekends.

To temporarily stop a pinhole leak, you need to apply pressure to the opening. If you were strong enough, you could simply grab the pipe and hold on. Not very practical though. Instead, wrap duct tape around the pipe. In many instances duct tape supplies the necessary pressure.

Unfortunately, duct tape doesn't always give you enough pressure. Another neat trick enlists the use of a C-clamp, a block of wood, and a piece of rubber. The rubber is used as a gasket. The block of wood applies pressure over a wider area than the end of the C-clamp, and the C-clamp holds the gasket and the wood block in place. Because the block of wood is flat, it can only be used to create pressure along a very narrow area of the pipe. Here's how to do it:

  • Turn the water off at the main shutoff valve.
  • Place a piece of rubber over the area where the pipe is leaking.
  • Put the block of wood on top of the piece of rubber.
  • Open the C-clamp wide enough to surround the pipe, gasket material, and the block of wood.
  • Place the stationary part of the opening of the C-clamp against the pipe (opposite the location of the leak) and the screw part of the C-clamp against the block of wood. Tighten the screw clamp until it is snug.

When you have several pinholes traversing around the pipe, we suggest a hose clamp and a piece of rubber. A single universal hose clamp fits every water pipe in your home.

Simply wrap the damaged section of pipe with the rubber and surround the rubber with the hose clamp. You'll need to use a screwdriver to fully open the hose clamp so that it is free to be wrapped around the pipe. Once it is around the pipe use the screwdriver to tighten the clamp snuggly around the rubber wrapped pipe. You can even use side-by-side clamps to quell larger leaks.

Junkyards are filled with rubber that can be had for pennies. Old automotive radiator and heater hoses work well. A friend who works on cars will probably be glad to give you all you need.

A sleeve clamp stops everything from pinhole leaks to larger leaks. (Forget searching out a piece of rubber for this one -- it comes with its own gasket.) A sleeve clamp consists of two semicircular pieces of metal that, when put together, completely surround the pipe -- hence the name sleeve. The clamp is about three inches long, but must be purchased for use with a specific pipe size. That is, a sleeve clamp made to repair 1/2-inch pipe is a different size than one needed to repair 3/4-inch pipe.

Here's how it works:

  • Wrap the damaged section of pipe with the gasket material provided.
  • Surround the gasket-wrapped pipe with the two semicircular clamps.
  • Tighten down the screws that connect the two halves of the sleeve clamp.

In the case of both the hose clamp and the sleeve clamp, only a screwdriver is needed for installation. Not too complicated.

No one relishes the ideas of spending money on plumbing repair items on the off chance that they might be needed. But if you think about it, things like hose clamps, C-clamps, duct tape, and rubber are pretty cheap, especially when you consider how much money they can save you if your pipes do spring a leak. These simple items are good junk to have in your workshop.