8 Methods for repairing copper piping

October 4, 2021
Posted by Trevor Sheffield
Failing-Copper

Failing-Copper

Introduction –

Water leaks can be a very frustrating experience, whether it’s from a toilet or a copper pipe that needs repair. In this how-to article you will find out how to stop leaks in your copper pipes, how to get the job done fast and efficiently with minimal tools and cost involved.

If a copper pipe is leaking it’s important to find the source of the leak and take steps to repair it as soon as possible.

The longer you allow the leak to persist, the more likely it will damage your home, or worse yet cause injury by flooding an area of your house that could potentially cause harm.

If unsure how to do these repairs, contact your local plumber for assistance.

A ruptured copper water pipe is a common problem for many homeowners. You can easily repair copper pipes by using a few different techniques, but if you’re not comfortable getting your hands dirty it may be best to call a plumber from Plumbing Express. 

Some homes have copper pipes in the walls, which can cause a bit of a hassle to get too. 

So, the DIY repairs we suggest are primarily for easily accessible copper pipes with large holes

If you’re experiencing water leaks from pinholes in copper pipes, then one of these solutions might provide some short term relief. However, pinhole leaks are often a sign of complete failure to your plumbing system. You can read more about that on our article: Pinhole Leaks in Failing Copper: An Atlanta Problem

Turn Off Water

Regardless of which repair method you choose, the first thing you need to do is shut off the water supply before doing any repair work. 

Once you have turned off the water supply, begin removing sections of piping around where you suspect there may be a problem. Take extra care not to remove too much piping so that you can easily replace each section once they are exposed.

This type of repair will be easier if there is a large tear or hole in the piping. If you’re experiencing pinhole leaks in the copper piping, then you’re likely experiencing a complete failure of the entire piping system

8 Methods for repairing copper piping

1) Soldering two couplings & piece of pipe (code approved / permanent)

2) compression couplings (code approved / permanent)

3) Sharkbite slip coupling (code approved if done correctly / permanent)

4) repair clamp (not code approved / temporary)

5) soldering hole shut (not code approved / temporary)

6) copper wire fix (not code approved / temporary)

7) Alfa tape (not code approved / very temporary)

8) Freeze Fix epoxy compound (harsh chemicals will come in contact with drinking water / not code approved / temporary)

Method #1: Soldering two couplings & a piece of pipe

This is by far the most common and up to code method. This should be your go to method for repairing a small section with pinhole leaks or with an area with a large hole.

  1. Determine the area of the pipe to cut. 
  2. Mark areas to cut
  3. Use a pipe cutter to remove damaged section of pipe
  4. Use the removed piece of pipe to determine the length to cut the new piece of pipe that will replace it
    1. Cut new piece of pipe
  5. deburr the inside and outside of the pipe that is still installed
    1. You can use a sharp utility knife for the inside
    2. You can use a file for the outside
  6. Slip couplings over each section of the cut pipe
    1. These couplings do not have stops
    2. This will allow you to easily slip on to the existing pipe and then over onto the new section of pipe
    3. The couplings will need to be the same size of the pipe
  7.  Hold the piece of the replacement pipe up to the section that’s missing
  8. Slide one coupling at a time over the new section so that half of the coupling is on the original pipe and half is on the new pipe.
  9. Repeat for other side
  10. Then, proceed to solder both couplings and on both ends of the coupling. 
  11. Remove the excessive plumbing flux and test for leaks

Pros:

  • Long term solution
  • Low cost

Cons:

  • Requires soldering
  • Not for beginners 
  • Requires sufficient access to the pipe

Method #2: Using compression couplings

This is probably the most user-friendly method for a do-it-yourselfer.

  1. Determine the area of the pipe to cut. 
  2. Mark areas to cut
  3. Use a pipe cutter to remove damaged section of pipe
  4. Use the removed piece of pipe to determine the length to cut the new piece of pipe that will replace it
    1. Cut new piece of pipe
  5. Starting on one side, slip on the retainer nut.
  6. Slip on the sleeve
  7. Repeat the process for the same side of the new pipe
  8. Before tightening the retainer nut onto the coupling, be sure to apply some plumbing pipe dope on the sleeve. 
  9. Tighten the retainer nut on each side of the coupling
  10. Repeat steps 5 – 9 for the other side
  11.  If water leaks from the coupling, then you probably did not tighten the retainer nuts enough.

If done correctly, this is a permanent and code approved solution.

Pros:

  • Good for beginners
  • No soldering required
  • Permanent solution

Cons:

  • Might leak if not installed properly
  • Not as robust as soldering

Method #3: Sharkbite slip coupling

  1. Use the fitting itself to determine the area of the pipe to cut. 
  2. Mark areas to cut
  3. Use a pipe cutter to remove damaged section of pipe
  4. Deburr the inside and outside of the pipe
    1. You can use a sharp utility knife for the inside
    2. You can use a file for the outside
  5. Identified the slip end of the fitting
  6. Then use an adjustable wrench to push the fitting back over the other end of the exposed pipe, until you can see your marks

This method is code approved if done correctly. It’s best for repairing a single hole in a pipe.

Pros:

  • No soldering
  • Good for beginners

Cons”

  • Not good for pipes exposed to sunlight
  • Not as robust as soldering
  • Might leak if improperly installed

Method #4: Repair Clamp

  1. Determine size of the pipe that is damaged
  2. Select the correct size clamp
  3. Open the clamp
  4. Secure clamp over the hole in pipe
  5. Snap clamp closed

This is a temporary fix. It’s a great option if you have a single hole in your copper pipe, and a plumber can’t come to make the repair right away. 

However, this repair is not to code. So, it is only for temporary repairs.

Pros:

  • Very easy
  • Great for any skill level
  • Best temporary option
  • No soldering

Cons:

  • Not to code
  • Temporary

Method #5: Soldering hole shut

This only works if you have a singular small hole. This would be roughly the size of a pencil tip.

  1. Clean pipe using an abrasive pad
  2. Apply some plumbing flux around the hole
  3. Apply some heat to the flux and the area around the hole with your portable blow torch
  4. You’ll see the plumbing flux begin to change color
  5. Apply the solder to patch the hole

This is not a code approved fix. It is only temporary. It’s a possible solution to allow you to continue to use your water, while you wait for a plumber to come and do a proper repair.

Pros:

  • Allows you to continue using water while waiting for plumber to arrive

Cons:

  • Involves soldering
  • No one should really do this 
  • Will probably not stop leak
  • Not a solution for pinholes

Method #6: Copper Wire Fix

  1. Clean the damaged area of the pipe with an abrasive material like Scotch-Brite pad
  2. Tightly wrap copper wire around the hole in the copper pipe and secure it in place
  3. Then solder the wire to the pipe

Pros:

  • Allows you to continue using water while waiting for plumber to arrive

Cons:

  • Involves soldering
  • No one should really do this 
  • Will probably not stop leak
  • Not a solution for pinholes

Method #7: Alfa Tape

  1. Begin wrapping the pipe with the tape
  2. After you get your initial start, it is critical that you pull tightly on the tape, for each additional wrap around the pipe

Pros:

  • No soldering
  • Easy for beginners

Cons:

  • Extremely temporary fix
  • Might not stop leak
  • No to code

Method #8: Freeze Fix epoxy compound

There are really two ways to use epoxy to fix a leaking copper pipe.

You can either use an epoxy putty to plug the hole, or you can use epoxy to create a bandage that’s similar to a cast put on a broken arm.

This is how to fix copper piping by using an epoxy putty.

This is most similar to using a piece of chewing gum to stop a leak in a dam. It’s most commonly used for multiple holes in a pipe – most likely related to defective pipe or pipe that has reached the end of its life expectancy.

This is probably the most popular repair method for copper pipes with pinholes. However, it’s important to remember that this is temporary & toxic.

Step 1: The epoxy will be separated into two different compounds. You will need to combine the compounds thoroughly. This will create a chemical reaction, which will create a new compound. Be sure to wear protective gloves.

Step 2: Apply this compound to the visible holes in the pipe. Allow this to fully dry.

Step 3: Wait for everything to fully dry and harden

This is not an ideal method, because the harsh chemicals will enter into the drinking water. This method is not code. It should only be used temporarily, until the pipe can be properly fixed.

Pros:

  • No soldering
  • Easy for beginners
  • Temporary solution

Cons:

  • Toxic
  • Not good for pinhole leaks

This is how to fix copper piping by using an epoxy sleeve.

One of the most common ways to fix copper piping is by using an epoxy sleeve. Epoxy sleeves are encased around the damaged area and then allowed to dry in order to create a watertight seal. You can think of this as being the equivalent of an arm cast for pipes.

Step 1: The epoxy will be separated into two different compounds. You will need to combine the compounds thoroughly. This will create a chemical reaction, which will create a new compound. Be sure to wear protective gloves.

Step 2: Apply this compound to the large hole in the pipe. Allow this to fully dry.

Step 3: Soak the bandage material in water. 

Step 4: Wrap tightly around the the epoxy compound

Step 5: Wait for everything to fully dry and harden

This is not an ideal method, because the harsh chemicals will enter into the drinking water. This method is not code. It should only be used temporarily, until the pipe can be properly fixed.

Pros:

  • No soldering
  • Easy for beginners

Cons:

  • Toxic
  • Not good for pinhole leaks
  • Temporary

Conclusion

You’ve probably heard of a few different options for repairing leaks in copper pipes. But, what is the best solution? 

The answer to this question depends on where and how big your leak is. If you have a single hole or if it’s localized to one area, then there are many solutions that could work well for you. 

However, if the problem has spread throughout most of your plumbing system, then you’ll need more than just a quick fix-and we’re here to help with that! 

We offer comprehensive services from diagnostics to repairs so that our customers can get their systems up and running as quickly as possible without having any major issues down the road. Give us call today at 678-439-9540

Pinhole Leaks in Failing Copper: An Atlanta Problem

August 15, 2020
Posted by Trevor Sheffield

Jim and Deb live in a two story brick home in Marietta, Georgia. They discovered a pinhole leak in their copper pipes. This time the leak is in their rec room in the basement right above their antique billiard table. The table is soaked and covered with chunks of acoustical tile that caved in and exploded when it hit the pool table after being saturated with more water than it could hold. 

The water continued to run throughout the night. The table is damaged and will have to be recovered or repaired. Their carpet is wet. The carpet will have to be pulled up and the padding replaced. The first step is calling the plumber who referred them to a remediation company. The remediation company brought out the big blowers and equipment. This will be another insurance claim. “Ugh” Jim thinks. 

Thousands of homes across Greater Metro Atlanta experience a tell-tale sign of systematic copper failure: the pinhole leak. This type of leak occurs from a tiny hole developing after many years of corrosion on the inside of the pipe. Copper pinholes are slow leaks that can go undetected while they weep moisture into the insulation and wall cavity of the home. As the pinhole leak persists the opening becomes larger and the output volume of water increases. Eventually, the leak becomes apparent and plumbers are called in.  

Failing-Copper

First-time leaks in a home are often viewed as an isolated occurrence. In fact, a single pinhole leak often signals widespread failure, rather than an isolated failure, in the home piping. After a leaking section of the pipe is repaired, additional leaks soon follow – they appear randomly throughout the home. More leaks continue to develop until the homeowner has the entire house repiped.

Copper piping has a well-earned reputation for quality. It is often viewed as the most problem-free piping material for indoor water distribution. A copper pipe is strong but lightweight. It is highly crack resistant and mostly corrosion free so it is unlikely to develop leaks or to affect the taste of your tap water. Copper is the most expensive piping from a material and installation cost standpoint. For this reason,  many of the nicest homes were built with copper plumbing systems. Unfortunately, the copper pipes in these very nice homes are victim to one of the few known enemies of copper pipe: chloramine. 

Chloramine eats away at copper from the inside out. It’s a combination of chlorine & ammonia. The destructive effect of chloramine on copper is gradual. At the time chloramine was adopted for water treatment the population growth in Cobb County was putting a strain on water treatment capacity. Water treatment facilities needed an alternative sanitizing chemical to keep drinking water safe as it traveled over increasing distances to reach many new neighborhoods and homes.

The use of chloramine has been abandoned but the irreversible damage has been done to the pipes in many homes. 

The signs of failing copper occur on the inside of the pipe. Deterioration occurs over a long period of time as the copper is worn thin. The first signs on the outside of the pipe will be a gradual pinhole leak. 

Copper pinholes are especially rampant and unnoticed under concrete slabs. In addition to the corrosive chloramine exposure carried in the municipal water supply, there are additional corrosive mechanisms affecting the pipe if it was installed without a protective plastic sleeve as is required by code in Georgia. The additional corrosion under the concrete slab is caused by exposure to soil, concrete, and conductive metals such as rebar. Many slab pipes are being corroded from the outside and from the inside resulting in a more rapid failure than is typically present within the walls of a home. 

Copper is a relatively inert material that does not typically decay in the same manner as plastic pipes. Plastic piping such as PEX is formulated with molecules that are designed to bond with ionized and be consumed by compounds that would otherwise rapidly deteriorate the pipe. 

Protective compounds in PEX slow the deterioration and extend the life of a PEX pipe. This protective compound amounts to a breakaway shield for the structural pipe to significantly slow the chemical degradation of PEX. When these protective compounds are fully reacted and leached the structural pipe will begin to degrade and eventually fail. 

Unlike plastic piping, copper is not affected by light. All plastic pipe must be kept away from high-frequency light.  

Failing-Copper

No more pinholes! No more leaks!

Conclusion

In cases where a home’s water pipe system has been degraded by chloramine, whole house replumbing is the sensible option. A home repipe is an investment in your home that pays off by eliminating costly and time-consuming calls to the plumber for band-aid repairs. The cost of repairs on a failing copper system will eventually be more than the cost of the repipe. Additionally, your home will avoid property damage, insurance claims, and elevated insurance premiums that result in living with a failing pinhole copper system in the home.

The typical home we see calling Plumbing Express for a replumb is located in Roswell and Marietta Georgia, was built in the 80s or early 90s and has a copper piping system.

Plumbing Express has been a premier repipe specialist in Georgia for over two decades. We encourage you to call us to learn more about our process and options for your home.