Plumbing Pipes Are Leaking – Repair Tips

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Leaking plumbing pipes can cause a lot of damage to your home if it isn't spotted and stopped in time. A leaky pipe can damage the property and put a significant dent in your wallet.

You don't have to be a pro at plumbing to do something about it. A good understanding of the basics will go a long way. And thankfully, there is a lot of information out there about what to do when you have leaky plumbing.

However, if you are reading this, you probably don't have time to read tons of information about leaky pipes. You need answers now. And that's why we're here, to make things easier (and shorter) for you.

So, keep reading to figure out how to know if your plumbing is leaking and how to find the leaky pipes, also about fixing different types of pipes and connections.

Plumbing leaking: Symptoms and causes

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First, it is important to know if the plumbing pipes are leaky at all or something else is going on. What are the signs that you might have leaking plumbing? Once you're able to identify that, the next step is to figure out the cause and how to fix it.

Now, when it comes to plumbing pipes, there are different types of leaks. Sometimes, the leak might just be in the joints, so in such cases, tightening the joints will most often solve the problem.

But, there are times when the main body of the pipe is leaking, or even worse water heater is leaking. Whether the water is flooding out of the drippy pipe or it is a steady drip, it needs to be fixed. There's no telling what kind of damage it can do to your home in the long run.

So, how can you tell that you might have a leaky pipe in your home? Well, several telltale symptoms can help.

The water meter shows a leak

The first stop is the water meter. Most water meters come with leak indicators, and this is a rather straightforward method to discover leaks. Check if the device is moving, as this can be a sign that there's a leak. 

Also, you could use the meter reading to figure out what's going on in the plumbing system. This means that you would need to take a meter reading and then wait a couple of hours. During the waiting period, you should not use any water at all. After that, take another reading and see if anything changes. If it does, then you most certainly have a leaky pipe.

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Your water bills are ridiculously high

Naturally, there are times when you will use more water than usual. Like when you have guests over, you decide to wash a few cars in your driveway or fill up the swimming pool.

However, if you haven't had any unusual activity involving water and your bills are higher than normal, then there's a problem. That is almost always a clear indication that there's leaky plumbing somewhere.

The air starts smelling musty

Again, if you've noticed a persistent musty smell that wasn't there before, this could mean water is escaping the plumbing somewhere. Generally, if a bathroom is not cleaned, it starts smelling musty after some time. But this should not happen if you clean it regularly.

Walls suddenly start sprouting mold or mildew

Have the walls in your bedroom or living room suddenly started spotting mildew or mold? Mildew and mold love damp and moist places. They thrive in that environment, which is why you can usually find them in bathrooms. However, if some other part of your home that isn't a bathroom is growing mildew and mold, pay attention. It could be a symptom of leaking pipes.

Water damage on your walls, flooring or ceiling

If you notice that the walls are bloated with water or your ceiling is sagging, then that's an obvious sign. This is not conclusive because if you live in a place with lots of humidity, you'll notice these signs. Still, it's worth investigating.

A water heater is leaking

If there is a puddle of water under the water heater, you might have a leaky water heater, or maybe TPR is discharging hot water.

So, what causes leaking plumbing?

Actually, this is an excellent question as it will also guide you in creating preventive measures. There are several reasons why you have a leaky pipe, and these include:

  • Extreme water pressure. High water pressure inside the plumbing system or water heaters can weaken connections, force the TPR to open, or even cause pipes to burst.
  • Corrosion. Metal pipes can develop rust, even the water heater. While it takes time before corrosion becomes a serious problem, once developed, rust can eat away at the pipes, weaken the pipe and create the opening through which water will escape.
  • Loose or broken water connections. The home plumbing, due to house movement (earthquakes, flooding…), could shift and make the plumbing fittings lose or even break.
  • Clogs. If the pipes are clogged with corrosive materials and chemicals, they can damage the pipe.
  • Degraded seals. Pipe and fitting seals or gaskets are used to secure the connection from leaks. Over time seals can deteriorate so water can escape through space in between.
  • Poor handling of the pipes.
  • Temperature change.

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How to find a leaky pipe

So, we've already mentioned some of the obvious signs that there's a leak. To find the problem, search for places in your home where there is dampness or moistness. This could be in the bathroom, kitchen, or basement. Here are some places to check:

  • Kitchens: Check beneath the sink to see if there's any moisture.
  • Bathrooms: Examine the walls to see if there's dampness and work back to the source. Also, check around the shower for the broken seals and be sure they're still secure. If there's a leak, you might see peeling paintwork or plaster.
  • Floors: A telltale sign is cracked flooring, particularly on wooden floors. If the flooring is warped or there are damp spots, then there's probably a leak there.
  • Walls: Damp walls, stains, or peeling paint and bubbling are a good sign that there's a problem. And that goes for wallpaper as well. You might need to drill a hole to find an issue.
  • Ceilings: Check out if there are stains on the plaster or damp spots. Sometimes, spotting the leak is easy because you can hear the dripping. But where that's not possible, you'll have to get up into that ceiling and poke around. To do that, arm yourself with a flashlight and a reliable ladder.
  • Basements: If there are exposed pipes in your basement, examine them carefully for leaks. Although you might not see any dripping water, you may find mold or mildew around the pipes.
  • Utility rooms: Check the water heating system and a potential puddle of water under the water heater.

Once you've discovered where the damaged pipe is, then it's time to repair it. Yes, this might seem a bit tricky at first but stay with us, and we'll walk you through.

How to fix a leaky pipe

So, you've determined that your pipe is leaking, now how do you repair it? Well, it depends on the pipe type. Generally, most hardware stores stock patch kits that you can use to repair leaky pipes. And if you're a DIYer, make yours with an inner tube and c-clamp or a rubber patch and hose clamp.

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Repairing a PEX pipe

Now, if you have a PEX pipe, chances are the leak might be at the joint. This is because PEX pipes do not usually spring leaks unless they are not properly installed.

You can repair the leaky PEX fitting by removing it first (with the shorter piece of a pipe) and installing a new one. Recommended connecting methods are clamping and crimping, using brass PEX fitting with either copper or stainless steel crimp rings. This is a great way to repair PEX tubes.

TIP: Check the PEX brand and be sure to buy corresponding fittings. The fittings are recommended for the tube type.

Repairing copper and steel pipes

However, repairing a copper pipe is not as straightforward because there are several ways to do that. If you can find the exact point that's leaking, you could solder it shut. This method works for small holes and leaky elbows, but before soldering, you have to drain the water.

For the larger leaks, you might have to remove the broken piece of pipe.

The easiest way to install a new pipe is by using the SharkBite coupling, so there is no soldering involved. You just slide it onto the copper pipe (also PVC and PEX) and connect.

There are also other ways, such as using compression fittings, repair clamps, plumbing putty, patch it up with solder, using copper wire, and others.

Repairing galvanized metal pipes

Again, if your plumbing uses galvanized pipes, you can repair a small leak with a repair clamp made from stainless steel. For larger leaks, you'll need first to cut out the damaged area. You can then replace it with a PEX or PVC fitting.

Repairing a CPVC pipe

There are several methods for repairing a leaking CPVC pipe, depending on the type of leak. These include:

  • Using a silicone or rubber repair tape
  • Using repair epoxies to leaks at the joint
  • Wrapping a fiberglass wrap around the leak
  • Making use of rubber or hose clamps, which you can actually make yourself

How to prevent busted pipes

Finally, it is always better to prevent leaking pipes, where possible. Several things can cause a leaky pipe, and most times, it is because they've frozen over. So, here are a few tips to prevent busted pipes.

  • Turn off the main tap to stop the flow of water.
  • Invest in good-quality pipe insulation for the colder months.
  • Let warm air flow into spaces that have pipes. This means leaving the doors to garages, roof spaces, and cabinets open.
  • Keep the thermostat on throughout the day.

How to thaw frozen pipes

And, if the pipes get frozen, you'll need to be careful about turning on the faucet. It is important to thaw them out first so that you can discover if there's any bust pipe. If there's no bust pipe, then turn on the faucet and let the water slowly thaw out the ice.

Next, you might need to place an electric heating pad around the pipes. A towel soaked in hot water will also do the job. Keep the heat on until the pipe is fully thawed out. Water in pipes won't freeze only if it is moving.

In conclusion, keeping your plumbing running might require expert hands, but these few tips will help you with the basics.

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