A Temporary Pipe Leak Repair Guide For Homeowners – Duct Tape & Beyond!

Sewer Service, Water Main Service
January 23, 2024

by David Balkan

rotted galvanized pipe

Homes typically have various types of plumbing pipes, each with its own material and characteristics. With that having been said, homeowners are frequently faced with situations when they need a temporary pipe leak repair to avert an emergency, a loss of service, or property damage to fix a leaking pipe.

What follows is a homeowner’s guide about some common types of pipes found inside homes, and temporary repair methods for each, which includes instructions about fixing a leaking pipe. These repair methods typically require a fairly low skill level and do not take a long time to complete.

pipe leak repair clamp
An “all-around” pipe repair clamp

A Quick Primer & Material Needed For Temporary Pipe Repairs

First and foremost, regardless of the plumbing pipe repair you’re undertaking to fix a leaky pipe, turn off the water, and stop using the water inside your home. Never try to repair an active and in-use pipe. Most plumbing fixtures and major branch lines have their own dedicated shut-off valves. If you cannot find a water valve near the actual leak, close the main control valve on the house side of your water meter inside of your basement.

Secondly, invest in some basic pipe repair materials and tools: For just a small investment, you’ll have the vital materials on hand to do a quick and temporary fix on a leaking piece of plumbing.

  • Invest a few dollars in basic household wrenches, and some plumbing wrenches.
  • Purchase a roll of duct tape and some other appropriate pipe repair tape (as mentioned below).
  • Buy some all-around pipe repair clamps in sets of two, and in the following sizes: 1/2″, 3 /4″, 1″, and 1 1/4″ (just in case).
  • Buy some stainless steel automotive hose-type repair clamps in the following sizes: 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1″. Likewise, purchase two of each size.
  • Get some rubber gasket material, one square foot should be more than you will ever need.
  • Purchase a small container of quick-set hydraulic cement (read the instructions carefully before ever using it).

Lastly, verify what material your pipe is made out of before starting your repair: You should verify for a water line leak what material your pipe is made out of. That can be a bit confusing for the average homeowner, so here is a helpful video on how to know what material your water line is made out of.

An all-around pipe leak repair clamp on a lead water service line.
A stainless steel repair clamp was installed around a lead water service line

Quick & Easy Copper Pipe Leak Repair Methods

Copper water pipe is by far the most common material found for water supply inside a home, and outside a home as well. Copper is very long-lasting, typically operating trouble-free for well more than 50 years.

Even with that having been said, a copper pipe does tend to leak from time to time and some quick-fix pipe leak repair remedies can be easily used to avert an emergency. A permanent repair usually requires a multi-step process to solder the copper pipes.

1. A Pipe Repair Clamp: It’s a good idea for any property owner to stock pipe leak repair clamps in a toolbox for future use. Pipe repair clamps are very inexpensive, and typically have a 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1″ clamp will be just fine. Most residential homes do not have inside water piping larger than 1″.

If you happen to get a leak on one of your copper water pipes, select a clamp that fits the pipe’s diameter and extends a few inches on either side of the leak. Place the rubber gasket over the leak, position the clamp, and tighten the screws evenly to seal the leak. It is truly as simple as that.

2. Compression Fitting: A compression fitting is ideal for a pipe leak repair when a small piece of the piping needs to be removed or separated. You would simply cut out the damaged section of copper tubing using a tubing cutter, and ensure the clean ends are clean and without burs.

You would then simply slide on the compression fitting, followed by the rubber gaskets, and tighten the nuts on both sides of the compression fitting to create a leak-proof seal. Once again this is a simple and quick remedy, even when a a seemingly major leak occurs.

3. Stainless Steel Hose Clamp: Stainless steel hose clamps are commonly used on automotive radiator hoses. However, they can be used with some gasket material to easily and quickly do a pipe leak repair when it is a small or pinhole leak.

4. Rubber/Silicone Tape: In the rare case that you have a pipe leak on a copper waste line, you can use rubber or silicone tape as a temporary pipe leak repair material – it will not work water pipes. Simply wrap the tape tightly around the leak, overlapping the tape layers to ensure a secure seal.

This method is suitable for minor pinhole leaks on waste lines. This should enable you to continue to use the affected plumbing fixture, but a more permanent repair will absolutely be required.

Lead Water Line and Waste Line Pipe Leak Repairs

Yes, many folks still have water lines and waste lines using lead as a material. Contrary to popular belief, temporary repairs on a lead water line can be done. They are best left to a professional, if not a small leak can become a flooding situation. Watch the following video, it’s a great tutorial on the subject of lead line repairs.

PVC Pipe Repair

Plastic pipe materials are more commonly used as both water lines and waste lines than ever before. They have a great ease of installation and repair as well.

Repair Coupling/Slip Coupling: Clean the damaged area of the PVC pipe with sandpaper. Apply PVC primer, and then PVC glue to both the pipe and the coupling’s ends. Slide the coupling over the damaged section, twisting slightly while pushing the ends together for proper adhesion.

This method of pipe leak repair is perfect when you can move around the PVC pipe to place it in the coupling

Rubber Patch with Hose Clamp: When you need a quick repair and don’t have the room to cut and move the affected PVC pipe, a piece of rubber gasket material and a hose clamp or tow are ideal. Simply cut a rubber patch slightly larger than the leak. Place the rubber gasket material over the leaking area after you’ve cleaned it, then secure it with a hose clamp or two, tightening it evenly.

Galvanized Steel Pipe Repair

More than any other material, galvanized pipe requires the most care. In most jurisdictions, NYC included, galvanized pipe is no longer approved as a material for water lines. Old galvanized pipe is frequently rotted, corroded, and fragile.

You always need to take great care in handling it, and carefully inspect it first. If not, you could make a slight leak into a true emergency flooding your property.

A pipe repair on galvanized that is leaking.
A previous pipe repair on a galvanized pipe that is now leaking

As an example, trying to tighten an old galvanized pipe will frequently result in it snapping in half. The best temporary pipe leak repair method for galvanized is to repair the affected area by using clamps. If you’re sure you have a galvanized pipe, place a magnet on the pipe. Galvanized pipe, unlike other pipe materials, is magnetic.

All-Around Pipe Repair Clamp: Much like stated above, choose a clamp that fits the pipe’s outside diameter, and extends a few inches on either side of the leak on the galvanized pipe. Position the rubber gasket over the leak, and then tighten the screws evenly to seal the leak.

Rubber Patch with Hose Clamp: First clean the damaged area thoroughly and gently, remember that galvanized pipe can be very fragile. Then place an appropriately sized piece of rubber gasket material over the leak. Secure it tightly with a hose clamp, evenly tightening the hose clamp for a secure seal.

If need be, you can use 2 or 3 clamps if necessary. These clamps are the same type of clamps used on automotive radiator hoses.

Cast Iron Sewer or Drain Pipes

Cast iron house sewer and house drain pipes are the most common types found in older homes. PVC is more and more commonly used, and commonly found in relatively newer homes.

Pipe leak repair needed on old cast iron pipe joints
Old cast iron pipe joints in need of repair

Leaks On The Cast Iron Pipe Itself

Pipe Repair Clamp: Choose a clamp that fits the pipe’s diameter and extends a few inches on either side of the leak. Position the rubber gasket over the leak and tighten the screws evenly to seal the leak.

Rubber Patch with Hose Clamp: Clean the damaged area thoroughly and place a rubber patch over the leak. Secure it tightly with a hose clamp, evenly tightening for a secure seal.

Duct Tape: Good old duct tape can frequently come in handy for an assortment of plumbing uses. If you need to keep a drain pipe functioning before a permanent repair can be made, wrap a few layers of duct tape around it. This requires a zero skill level, and nothing more than the cost of some duct tape.

Pipe Leak Repair on Cast Iron Joints or Connecting Points

No Hub Pipe Leak Repair: If your drain pipes are cast iron no hub pipes, they may develop a leak at the joint. This can be due to pipe settlement, or a rotted gasket. The solution would be to better support and align the pipe if it has settled.

In either of the above cases, do not reuse an existing no-hub pipe clamp. No hub pipe clamps are very inexpensive and readily available. Simply install a new no-hub clamp using a small wrench, or a no-hub wrench.

Cast iron no hub pipe hung from a ceiling.
Cast iron no hub pipe properly supported by pipe hangers from a ceiling

Cast Iron Hub Pipe Leak Repair: If you have a leak on the joint of cast iron pipe, it can be a bit tricky to cure. If it is a lead joint, you can try packing it in using a light claw hammer and a chisel. Be gentle, or you’ll risk cracking the hub on the cast iron pipe.

In some other cases, a temporary pipe leak repair can be accomplished by placing quick-drying hydraulic cement around the leaking pipe joint.

If neither of the above solutions works, you will probably have to remove a section of the leaking cast iron pipe on either side of the hub, and then insert a new section of pipe. In most cases like this, you’ll need a skilled plumber to perform a sewer repair of this type, and to avoid exasperating the situation.

PEX Pipe Leak Repair

In many areas of the country, not in NYC to mention just one, PEX pipe is permitted in plumbing systems. There are two basic ways to do a quick repair.

Push-Fit Coupling/Repair Clamp: First, cut out the damaged section using a PEX cutter to ensure a clean, straight cut. Insert a suitable repair coupling or clamp, then carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.

Rubber/Silicone Tape: If you’ve noticed good old tape is the temporary fix of choice in many cases. Therefore, it never hurts to have a roll of duct tape, and rubber or silicone tape handy.

To do a temporary pipe repair using tape, simply wrap the tape tightly around the leak, overlapping it in layers. If you ensure a snug fit, you’ll be able to stop the leak temporarily.

A Conclusion About Temporary Pipe Repair Work

Remember, these temporary fixes are stopgap measures. It’s crucial to monitor the repair closely and know the limits of your plumbing skills. It’s typically also best to seek professional plumbing assistance to replace or repair the damaged section permanently at a time that is convenient for you. As in any task of this nature, safety and caution should be exercised when working with any plumbing repairs.

In closing, when you do a professional and licensed water main repair company, count on Team Balkan. For a period of over 70 years over 90,000 New Yorkers have counted on Balkan for all of their house sewer and water service line needs.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

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