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Repairing a burst pipe

Cost: Difficulty:

Introduction

As water changes into ice in extreme temperatures, it also expands by approximately 10%. Metal pipes are more susceptible to frost damage than plastic ones. Of the metal pipes available, copper and stainless steel are not as vulnerable as lead. If the ice formed cannot expand along the pipe, sometimes due to further ice formations further along the pipe, the resulting pressure can split the pipe open or force a joint to open up.

Method

The position and material the pipe is made from will determine the length of time and expertise required in order to fix it.

Lead piping

Option 1:

Lead piping in domestic properties is prohibited today for health reasons. Drinking water lying in a lead pipe for some time absorbs toxins from the metal. (If lead piping supplies the drinking water, always run the water for a short time before using it). Thousands of homes still have a lead rising main connected to a modernised system. When the occasion arises lead pipes should be replaced rather than repaired with either copper or plastic piping.

Option 2:

If the situation is such that a repair is necessary, lead-to-copper compression fittings should be used. These fittings can be used to connect the lead pipe to either copper or plastic pipe. The water supply should be turned off and the pipes drained. Use a hacksaw to cut a small section of pipe. It is easier if time allows to take the section of pipe along to a plumbing merchant to ascertain the correct fittings. The Leadloc fitting should then be fitted to the lead piping in a similar way to any compression fitting. Connect the copper or plastic pipe to the other end of the fitting. You could even reconnect the old lead pipe to the fitting.

Option 3 - Emergency repair:

If it is not possible to leave the home to buy a fitting, lead piping can be bandaged, temporarily, in an emergency. The water supply should be turned off and the pipes drained. Lead is soft and can be hammered together at the split site, as well as is possible. The surrounding area should be cleaned with wire wool or fine abrasive paper. The area should be dried and then wrapped with reinforcing tape, covering the surrounding area as well, to aid reinforcement. Another length of tape should then be wrapped around the entire area being repaired. Leave the pipes for an hour or so before running the water through the pipes again. Feel the area or wrap with a paper tissue and check whether there is any leakage before leaving the site. Option 1 or 2 should be used to replace the section causing concern as soon as possible.

Copper piping

Option 1:

The water supply should be turned off and the pipes drained. If the split in the pipe is fairly small (less than 3.5 in, 90cm) cut out the damaged part and slide the slip end of the coupling onto a pipe end. Then push it onto the other end. Unscrew the compression nuts and slide them, together with the olives, at each end along the pipe. Apply pipe-jointing compound before refitting the nuts and olives by screwing them tight using your fingers. Then use a spanner to tighten further. Run the water through the pipes again. Feel the area or wrap with a paper tissue and check whether there is any leakage before leaving the site.

Option 2 - Emergency repair:

If the pipe is not under mains pressure, an emergency repair can be made with a length of hose. The piece of hose should be longer than the split area. Cut the hose down its length and wrap it around the pipe. If the hose is too narrow, make sure the split area is completely covered with hose. Then secure the hose with hose clips or wire loops. Run the water through the pipes again. Feel the area or wrap with a paper tissue and check whether there is any leakage before leaving the site. Option 1 should be used to replace the section causing concern as soon as possible.

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