In the event of a broken or leaking plumbing pipe, knowing how to do some quick emergency repairs can save a lot of damage being done. Turning the water supply off always the first thing you need to do, and it is a very good idea to make sure that everyone in your household knows where the main stop valve can be found. The exact location of this can vary, but it is often found close to other amenities such as the gas meter or close to where these amenities enter the house. Because the stop valve does not get used fairly often, it may be stiff when you try to turn it. Spraying the shaft with a lubricating fluid such as WD-40 can help to loosen it.
Pipes should be insulated, especially in the loft or underneath floorboards. If they are not insulated, you run the risk of suffering from frozen pipes. If, in cold weather, you find that water will not flow from a tap or the cistern will not refill, you might have a plug of ice blocking the supply pipes.
Check which taps work and which don’t and you should soon be able to work out which pipe the blockage might be in. Freezing often occurs first in the loft, so this is a good place to start. To unfreeze the pipe, use a normal hairdryer to warm the pipe. Start as close to the tap or cistern as possible and work your way along. Keep the non-flowing tap open so that you will know if you thaw the blockage. If you manage to pinpoint the frozen section, make sure you insulate it once it has been cleared.
Hitting a underfloor pipe with a nail is a fairly common occurence. The trouble is that you might not notice until water starts leaking through the ceiling or there are some other signs of leaking water. Once you have located the nailed pipe, leave the nail in place until you have turned off and drained the system. If you pull it out when lifting a floorboard, etc, put it back into the hole straight away.
Once the system has been drained you can apply an emergency fix. Cut a short length of garden hose and slit it along its length. Slide this over the hole in the pipe and secure it with Jubilee clips or short lengths of wire twisted tight with pliers.
If you happen to have some Epoxy Resin to hand, this can also be used for a slightly longer term fix. Clean the section of pipe around the hole with wire wool or sandpaper, mix up the resin and press it into and around the hole. Build it up to at least 3-5mm thick and allow it to dry for 24 hours before running water through the pipe.
Now that you have the emergency repair in place, you can think about a permanent fix. The punctured section of pipe will need to be cut out and replaced, either with a new section of copper pipe or with a flexible pipe repair kit available from DIY stores.
Repairing Pipe with a Push-Fit Hose
You can buy short lengths of flexible hose fitted with push-fit sockets on each end. These can be a good semi-permanent way to replace a damaged section of copper pipe. To fit the hose, make sure the water is turned off and hold the replacement push-fit hose against the broken pipe. Use it to mark the section that you will need to cut out, taking into account the fact that the cut ends of the copper pipe need to fit into the push-fit sockets. As a guide, measure the full length of the push-fit pipe and then cut out a section of pipe 30mm shorter.
With the section of copper pipe cut out, use a file to get rid of any burrs on the cut ends. Now simply push one end of the replacement pipe onto one of the cut ends and the other push-fit socket onto the other cut end. If the flexible pipe has a slight bend in it, don’t worry. Do, however, avoid having any kinks in the flexible hose as this will restrict water flow. Turn the water back on and run it for a few minutes whilst watching the point of your repair. If you notice any leaks, make sure that the push-fir sockets are firmly pushed onto the cut ends.