Discovering a leaking pipe can initially cause panic, but armed with these quick fixes, you can solve the problem temporarily until you can seek professional help
Just like you may have an emergency kit containing flashlights for a power outage, you can prepare for a pipe leak with a few key materials. Having this ready before there’s a problem can be the difference between major and minor water damage in your home. Below we’ve broken down some temporary fixes for a leaking pipe.
What Parts Contribute to a Pipe Leak?
A pipe leak can range from moisture under your sink to a full-blown pipe leak draining water onto your favorite area rug. To be prepared for each of these and everything in between, consider the locations and parts that might contribute to a pipe leak. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that household leaks waste nearly 1 trillion gallons of water each year in the U.S., identifying the following leak types as the main culprits.
If your shower seems to be running when you aren’t in it, you could have a showerhead leak. According to Joseph Wood, Expert Review Board member, and Boston-based Master Plumber, “Showerheads are ‘dumb’ and do not control water output. They simply form water into a desirable pattern for bathing. If water comes from a showerhead, unless a residual drip that ends a few minutes after the shower is shut off, you have a leaking shower valve.”
If a showerhead's threaded connection is spraying water, you can fix this simply by ensuring there’s a full connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem. Use pipe tape to secure it (this is also called Teflon tape). You can also check to see if the washer or “o” ring, which is located inside the showerhead, needs replacing.
Faucet leaks aren’t just annoying occurrences that interrupt binge-watching your new favorite show, they also waste a lot of water. Even just one drip per second adds up to the equivalent of 18 showers per year, according to the EPA. One easy temporary fix for this kind of leak you can try while you wait on a plumber is replacing your aerator, which is located right inside the faucet and easily replaceable with a towel and wrench.
Look for the type of aerator with a shutoff built into it. The up and down level up/down lever will help control the amount of water flow you want to use.
While it may seem this type of leak would be less harmful, this isn’t necessarily the case. An outdoor leak can cause minor flooding, and infiltrate your basement or other structures, causing indoor damage as well. They can also drip undetected for ages, resulting in exorbitant water bills. If you have an irrigation system, you should check for leaks periodically, especially before first using it after winter or a freeze.
One of the most common problems, a runny toilet usually leaks right down the drain, leaving the homeowner is none the wiser. This results in huge water and sewer bills.
You may recognize a toilet leak not just from seeing water on the bathroom floor but also from hearing the toilet run when it’s not in use. In addition, you may have to hold the handle down to empty the tank all the way or may see extra water coming down into the drain when you aren’t flushing it. All of these signs indicate it’s time for the food coloring test.
This simple diagnosis procedure, according to the Portland Water District, will let you know if you have a leak: Put about 10 drops of food coloring into the toilet tank (not the bowl) without flushing, and wait about 10-15 minutes. If you see colored water in the toilet bowl, you have a leak. If left unfixed, a toilet leak can damage surrounding areas, and cause a significant increase in your water bill. A plumber can also help you identify when a full toilet replacement is a better choice.
What Products Will Temporarily Fix a Leaking Pipe?
Before you duct tape a pipe leak and hope for the best, consider these alternatives that can save your home from damage while you await professional help. Some products are better for specific types of pipes, so knowing what material you are working with can help you make a quick decision when time matters. Don’t forget to shut off the main water supply as soon as you see a leak to prevent as much damage as possible while you solve the issue.
If it’s sturdy enough for a submarine, it can probably handle your pipe problem. A pipe clamp, made of metal sleeves and a rubber pad inside, can be used in a scenario such as a leaking copper pipe. It would require more skill and specific tools to replace a portion of the pipe. In the meantime, the clamp can be used to stop the leak in just a few minutes, and for only a few dollars at a local hardware store.
You can temporarily solve pinhole leaks with repair sleeves, which are similar to clamps. They will give strong support to your pipe for a limited time, but shouldn’t be a permanent fix.
If you have a leaking cast-iron pipe, you will probably know it, especially if it is a sewer pipe. You may smell something terrible, see moldy walls, or have slow drains from your sink or toilet. You can patch it with epoxy; just make sure your surface is good and dry before you begin the repair. You may see compounds such as QuikSteel, J-B Weld, and others at a local hardware store for under $10.
Epoxy will dry in just a few minutes and may end up being a more budget-friendly solution than replacing a pipe, depending on the size of the leak. However, it’s always best to let a certified plumber determine that. Another possible epoxy-like solution is a pipe wrap, which goes around the pipe and hardens in the same way.
Rubber Pipe Connectors
If your leak is at the joint, rubber pipe connectors can help stop water or drainage from pooling. This process can involve some cutting, so it may be better to use if you have more than basic plumbing repair experience.
Several types of tape can be solid options for containing a small leak, including duct tape, Teflon tape, and electrical tape, depending on the type of pipe. The secret to using tape to temporarily fix a leak is to ensure there’s no water in the area while you are taping as this will help you to create a good seal. You’ll also want to completely flatten the tape against the pipe so that no pockets of water can fill up inside your tape job. This will only work on smaller leaks, and shouldn’t be attempted with serious leaks.
While it may be tempting to just ignore a small water leak, it will cost time, energy, and more money in the long run if you just leave it. You may end up with ceiling, wall, or floor damage which can be costly, in addition to potentially dangerous environments, such as mold, that can harm your family’s health. To be safe, be proactive about every leak by attempting to fix the link or calling a professional for help promptly (or both).