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How to Fix a Leaking Copper Pipe

No matter what, you’ll eventually have to deal with leaky pipes in your home. It’s a given, and to some, almost like a rite of passage. Copper pipes do provide some advantages to homeowners, but like any pipe, they will wear with age, encounter a small leak, and eventually falter. A leaking copper pipe can be cause for stress, but our guide can help you through the process of addressing and fixing them as painlessly as possible. Here’s a quick overview of copper pipes and a look at how to fix them when they’re leaking.

Problems With Copper Pipes

Despite the fact that copper water pipes are UV ray and bacteria-resistant, copper pipes are still susceptible to problems and are by no means invincible. Here are some key issues that may arise that require repair:

  • Corrosion & Pitting Leaks: Copper is a metal that will corrode under the wrong conditions. Generally, it occurs when copper oxidizes with other substances. The corrosion goes undetected until there is a leak.

  • Pinhole Leaks: Pinhole leaks are small holes in the pipe often a result of abrasion, erosion, or corrosion. These are slow leaks that can cause a lot of damage when left untreated for an extended period.

  • Deterioration of Water Quality: As the pipes corrode, the copper will slowly leach into the drinking water, resulting in a metallic or bitter taste. If you find high levels of copper in your water, repair it as soon as possible because it can make you sick and may present health issues if ignored.

Scaling: Scaling will build up in the pipes over time; this makes the pipe’s diameter smaller. Ultimately, it’ll affect water flow and make your plumbing system less efficient.

How to Fix A Leaking Copper Pipe

DIY pipe repair might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely possible. In situations where the damaged area is fairly small and only requires you to remove a short section of pipe, the repair can be done quickly. 

In a pinch, you can use repair tape or epoxy putty for pinhole leaks. In many cases, you can even get everything you need to fix it at your local hardware store or on Amazon. 

Keep in mind that this is just a temporary fix. More serious leaks or damages will usually require a plumber to assist you. If you want to take on the challenge of a DIY pipe repair, here’s an overview of the key steps. 

  • Locate the leaking copper pipe.

  • Remove drywall.

  • Inspect the pipe thoroughly.

  • Shut off the water supply.

  • Drain the water lines.

  • Cut out the leaky piece of pipe.

  • Get a replacement section of pipe. (Type L is thicker than M.)

  • Debur the copper pipe.

  • Smooth down the first inch of the pipe with an emery cloth.

  • Measure 1 inch on your pipe to allow for your compression fitting such as a Sharkbite fitting

  • Push the fitting onto the pipe to make sure it’s flush with the mark.

  • Cut your existing pipe to leave room for the Sharkbite fitting. 

  • Measure the distance between the two couplings and add two inches to your dimension.

  • Cut, square, debur, and emery cloth the new pipe.

  • Push into the couplings.

That’s a lot of steps to repair a leaking copper pipe. It can leave a lot of room for mistakes as well. 

If none of these steps sound like something you want to take on, then epoxy coating is the winning play here. While you can opt for a CPVC or PEX pipe solution, you’ll still have to install and ensure you’ve done it all correctly by yourself. ePIPE’s epoxy coating can save you the hassle of having to do any of these steps and most importantly, having to do any of these steps on your own.  

What About Soldering?

If you’d rather solder, you can follow much of the same directions. When you solder, you need to keep the inside of the pipes dry, so you’ll want to stuff a cotton rag or cloth in the pipe at each end to catch any dribbles of water that may come up until just before you solder.

Open a faucet above that level of pipe (after the water is shut off, of course) to prevent pressure build-up. 

To solder the pipe, you’ll need:

  • A tube cutter

  • Emery cloth

  • Flux and brush

  • Solder

  • Pipe fittings

  • A propane torch

Once you’ve gathered all the equipment and materials to solder the leaking copper pipe, follow these general steps below. Here’s what to do: 

  1. Use a tubing cutter to cut the bad or leaky section of pipe.

  2. Clean the pipes and fittings with a steel brush and emery cloth.

  3. Apply a thin layer of tinning flux to both sides of the joint. It has a metal alloy similar to solder. It works better than regular flux because the alloy melts to coat the inside of the joint to ensure it is leakproof and completely filled.

  4. Assemble the pipes, then solder the joints. It’s important to do them all at the same time.

  5. Heat the joint with the propane torch just enough to melt the solder. If you don’t heat it enough, the solder won’t flow into it. But, if you heat it too much, you’ll burn the flux, causing it to smoke and turn black. This makes it harder for the solder to flow into the joint. Heat the joint for about five seconds, or until the flux starts to bubble.

  6. To test, start by touching the solder to the seam on the side that is opposite of the flame. When the copper reaches a temperature that’s high enough, the solder should easily melt. Remove the flame from the joint and feed the solder into the joint. It will flow into all the areas of a joint that has been properly cleaned and fluxed. 

  7. Make sure the joint is completely filled by running the tip of the solder around the seam quickly. If it beads up and rolls off instead of flowing into the joint, you’ve either got copper that isn’t clean enough or you have burned the flux. If that’s the case, you’ll have to take everything apart and clean it well before trying again.

And the Best Option? ePIPE’s Epoxy Coating

If you want to avoid all of the above and you also don’t want to spend the time and money to completely repipe your house, consider using an epoxy solution. Here are a few benefits of epoxy pipe coating:

  • Stop Pinhole Leaks: The epoxy coating will close pinholes and will prevent future pinholes from developing and causing damage. It provides a legitimate and durable solution to these pesky pinholes and you can sleep soundly knowing they’re secure with epoxy coating.

  • Reduce Lead & Copper in Your Water: The coating also protects pipes from pitting and corrosion, reducing the lead and copper contaminants to below WHO and EPA standards.

  • Minimally Invasive: There’s no need to destroy walls, ceilings, and floors to access pipes for repair. In most cases, you can also stay inside your home and won’t have to be displaced.

  • Cost-effective: Because you don’t have to completely replace your entire home’s piping, reconstruct walls, floors, and ceilings, it is an affordable alternative. 

  • Improve Water Flow: Before the lining is applied, pipes are cleaned to remove the buildup of corrosion and abrade the pipe wall to allow the epoxy to adhere to the original piping. 

A leaking copper pipe isn’t for any novice. While it’s a relatively easy home repair, it might only be successful if you’re dealing with a very minor leak. Doing a quick, DIY repair to a leaky copper pipe is no match for an epoxy coating.

Don’t depend on a store-bought pipe repair kit as every home is different and presents its own set of challenges. Instead, depend on ePIPE and our team to solve any issues for you using epoxy. 

Epoxy will provide a permanent repair solution and you can have the satisfaction of knowing it was done correctly and safely. If you’re not a fan of home improvement jobs or want to go beyond a quick fix for the water leak in your home, contact us today to learn more about our ePIPE solution and our financing solutions.

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