Copper pipes can spring leaks for many reasons: corrision, freezing and bursting, inadequate soldering, or human accident. For large holes, cracks, or bends, you’ll need to replace the portion of the copper line that broke with a new piece of copper. This involves a fair amount of plumbing know-how, but can be achieved by a do-it-yourselfer following our sweat soldering instructions.
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of cutting, heating, and solder-joining pipes, you’ll need to call a plumber to fix a large/unusual leak situation.
For very small leaks (also known as “pinhole” leaks), one easier solution is to use a repair clamp purchased at your local home improvement store for about $5.00. Repair clamps are metal sleeves with a flexible rubber pad inside that clamp over the pipe in the area where the leak has sprung. They are straightforward to use, and can be applied in under 5 minutes. When applied properly, a repair clamp will last as long as the rest of the plumbing structure.
In the picture above, a self-tapping valve for a refrigerator water line has been installed on the main water pipe. This valve has malfunctioned, and will no longer completely close (not an unusual problem for self-tapping valves). The house is to be sold without a refrigerator, so this tap valve must be replaced. It would not have been wise to replace the valve with another self-tapping valve in the same location because it would suffer the same problem. Instead, we’ll repair the hole created by the tap valve with a repair clamp, and the new owner can tap the line in another location when the next refrigerator is installed.
The picture above shows the small hole created by the self-tapping valve. This hole size is well within the range of the type of leak that can be repaired with a repair clamp. You can see in the picture a small area on the pipe where the self-tapping valuve was that is particularly shiny. This is the area that the rubber pad inside the self-tapping valve was touching. A repair clamp uses the same principle to close the hole as the self-tapping valve was using to prevent the water from spraying out the sides.
How to Install a Repair Clamp
To install the repair clamp, simply place the repair clamp on the pipe with the flexible rubber pad centered over the hole. Place the metal clamp over the pad, and tighten the two screws and nuts until the rubber pad is compressed over the hole. Be careful not to over-tighten the screws, as this could bend the copper pipe.
The finished project is shown above. In this case, a repair clamp saved us the cost of calling a plumber (about $120 just for the visit in this area). Instead, with $5.00 and 5 minutes we repaired the problem ourselves.
What do you think? Was this article helpful? Have you ever used a repair clamp to fix a plumbing problem?