Leaks – Prevention and Cures

By: Charles Kassotis


The best way to solve plumbing leaks is to prevent them. Take a look at some very easy steps you can take toward prevention, and what to do if your prevention isn’t enough.

Winter is tough on pipes and even your indoor plumbing can freeze if the room gets cold and the pipes are not thoroughly insulated. Underground pipes should be buried at least several inches deep with the exact depth dependent on the typical weather for your area.

Wrap all exposed lines, even those under you house. There are several options for wrapping plumbing. You may opt for the rolled fiberglass wrap that’s widely available at retailers. In that case, you simply unroll the wrapping and wind it tightly around pipes.

If you’re allergic to fiberglass or don’t want to handle it, you may find that a foam wrap is better. This type is also readily available, though you may have to hit a hardware store to find it. In this case, the weather wrap comes in “joints” – usually ten feet long. The joint is split from end to end down the middle. You open it and slip it onto the pipe. If you choose this type, you need to know what size your pipe is and you may need to wrap duct tape around the joint to hold it firmly in place.

One point to keep in mind when wrapping pipes is the amount of water is on the outside of those pipes. If you wrap a pipe with fiberglass stripping and water accumulated, it could form a giant icicle, making it likely that the pipe will free anyway. If you’re in an area that typically experiences extreme winters, you may also need to wrap lines that are buried very near the surface.

Leaving water dripping inside the house is one way to help prevent freezing. It’s a simple matter of physics – running water isn’t going to freeze unless the temperatures get really low.

If your water lines do freeze, start looking for leaks before the water thaws. You’ll usually find that lines have large amounts of ice on the outside if they’re broken. Turn off the water immediately. Getting to the leak before the water starts running means you’ll save having to clean up the mess.

Most water lines today are PVC pipes. They’re a hard white or off-white plastic and are very easy to repair. You’ll need connections, glue and a section of pipe a few inches longer than the break. Since there are several kinds of the pipe and it’s sometimes difficult to determine the size, it’s a good idea to cut out a section of the broken pipe before you start. Take that with you to the plumbing supply store to be sure you get the correct replacement parts.

Cut the pipe at least an inch or two past the visible leak. Hairline cracks will still leak but are difficult to see until the water pressure hits it. Most PVC glue works on wet pipe. Make your pipe as dry as possible, but don’t worry too much about a bit of water.

After you’ve replaced the pipe, it’s a good idea to send someone to turn on the water while you watch for leaks.

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