How to Repair Broken Copper and Plastic Pipes
Pipes form the backbone of our home’s plumbing system, but like any other material, they can wear down, rust, or crack over time. Whether you’re dealing with an old copper pipe or a modern plastic one, knowing how to repair them can save you time, money, and potential water damage. In this article, we’ll cover how to fix both types.
Before undertaking any repair work, always turn off the water supply to the area where you’re working. This will prevent additional water damage and make the repair process more accessible.
Repairing Copper Pipes
- Pipe cutter or hacksaw
- Sandpaper or emery cloth
- Lead-free solder
- Propane torch
- Replacement copper pipe
- Copper slip couplings
- Identify the Broken Area: Identify the leak or crack on your copper pipe.
- Cutting the Damaged Section: Use a pipe cutter or hacksaw to remove the damaged section. Ensure your cuts are straight.
- Prepare the Pipe Ends: Clean the cut ends of the pipe with sandpaper or an emery cloth until they’re shiny. This ensures a soldered solid bond.
- Apply Flux: Apply a thin layer of flux to the cleaned ends. This will help the solder flow and bond.
- Attach the Replacement: Slide copper slip couplings onto the ends and then fit the replacement copper pipe section into place.
- Soldering: Heat the joint evenly with a propane torch. Once hot, touch the lead-free solder to the joint. It should melt and flow into the joint.
- Cool and Test: Let the pipe cool naturally. Turn the water back on and check for any leaks.
Repairing Plastic Pipes (PVC, CPVC, PEX)
- Pipe cutter or hacksaw
- Replacement plastic pipe section
- Pipe fittings (appropriate for your type of plastic pipe)
- Primer and solvent cement (for PVC and CPVC) or crimping tools and rings (for PEX)
- Identify the Broken Area: As with copper, locate where the leak or damage is.
- Cutting the Damaged Section: Use the pipe cutter or hacksaw to cut out the broken section. Make sure your cuts are straight.
- Prepare the Pipe Ends: For PVC and CPVC, use sandpaper to smooth any rough edges.
- Attach the Replacement:
- For PVC and CPVC: Apply primer to both the outside of the pipe end and the inside of the fitting. Then, apply solvent cement to both primed areas and immediately push the fitting onto the pipe end. Hold for a few seconds to ensure a bond.
- For PEX: Slide a crimp ring onto the pipe end. Insert the replacement pipe section using the appropriate fittings, then slide the crimp ring into place. Using a crimping tool, secure the crimp ring.
- Test: Turn the water back on and check for leaks.
While homeowners can often undertake minor repairs, it’s essential to recognize when a job may be too big or complex. If you’re ever in doubt or have other issues, such as water damage or mold, it’s best to call a professional plumber. However, with the proper knowledge and tools, many minor pipe repairs can be addressed promptly and effectively.