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How to make emergency plumbing repairs

Frozen and Split Pipes

In colder climates, pipes located in exterior walls, crawl spaces, and attics are often subject to freezing. The best preventive measure is to insulate these pipes. Even insulated pipes can freeze when exposed to drafts of extremely cold air. When pipes freeze, a plug of ice forms in a small section of the pipe and expands, swelling the pipe, and, in most cases, rupturing the pipe wall. Even a well-protected pipe may crack after years of use.

A sure sign that a pipe has frozen is that no water passes through the pipe to the faucets nearest the freeze. You will often be able to feel along the pipe and locate the frozen area.

If the pipe has not yet ruptured, use a portable hair dryer to warm the frozen area until water flows again to the nearest faucet. Move a hair dryer back and forth over a wide area so the pipe will thaw evenly. Once the pipe has thawed, you should wrap it with insulation.

If you can see that the pipe has already split, you will need to drain the system before thawing the frozen area. Once the area has thawed, you will need some sort of emergency repair.

Repair Leaks Temporarily

The flow of water should be turned off before beginning any repair. If you have access to a plumbing supplier, the easiest repair solution for a split pipe is a sleeve-type repair coupling. Available in a number of standard sizes, repair couplings consist of two metal halves that are hinged on one side and bolted together on the other. A rubber sleeve fits inside, wrapping completely around the pipe.

Installing a Sleeve-Type Repair Coupling

– Clean the affected pipe with a wire brush or sandpaper.
– Fit the rubber sleeve around the pipe, seam opposite the leak.
– Fit the metal halves of the collar over the sleeve and tighten halves the together.

If conventional repair materials are unavailable, you can sometimes create a temporary patch using materials found around the house or at an all-night service station. You’ll need a piece of tire inner tube or a section of old garden hose, and a few radiator hose clamps

A sleeve-type repair coupling.

Making a Temporary Patch

– Wrap the inner tube (or garden hose) around the split pipe several times.
– Clamp it in place with radiator clamps.
– Make sure clamps fall on either side of the split.
– Tighten clamps firmly in place.

A general purpose epoxy kit may enable you to create an epoxy patch to temporarily repair a split pipe. Such kits consist of two sticks of putty that are mixed together. An epoxy patch must cure properly, usually 24 hours, before the water can be turned on.

Epoxy Patch Repair

– Clean the pipe area with sandpaper and alcohol.
– Knead together the two sticks of putty provided in the kit. (You will have approximately 15 minutes to work before the mixture sets.)
– Press the epoxy putty around the pipe.
– Smooth ends with a damp cloth until epoxy forms a seamless bond around the pipe.
– Make sure epoxy patch extends several inches beyond either side of the split.
– Do not put full pressure in the pipes for at least 24 hours after application.

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