HOLD the compression repair coupling against the damaged pipe and mark 1 in. in from each end.
Photo: Geoffrey Gross
Split-Pipe Repair 1: Hold the compression repair coupling against the damaged pipe and mark 1 in. from each end.
Most homeowners have the skills and confidence to tackle minor plumbing problems, like dripping faucets and clogged drains. But even moderately experienced do-it-yourselfers hesitate when it comes to repairing leaky water-supply lines, especially if it involves soldering. And that's wise because it only takes one mistake to turn a small leak into a flash flood. Here, we'll show you how to make repairs to both copper and galzanized-iron pipes without using a soldering torch.

Split-Pipe Repair

Millions of homes are plumbed with copper water-supply lines. The pipes and fittings are "sweated" together with solder, which is melted with a gas torch. Besides the obvious dangers of working with an open flame, it takes experience to make the hot solder spread uniformly so the sweated joint doesn't leak. And any moisture in the pipe will prevent a watertight seal.

A simple alternative to soldering when a leak occurs somewhere along a run of pipe (not at a fitting) is to cut out the damaged section and splice in a compression repair coupling. These cut-and-paste couplings are commonly available for 1/2- and 3/4-in.-dia. pipes in 6- and 12-in. lengths; prices range from $6 to $15. We used a 6-in. repair coupling from Prairie Home Products to fix a 1/2-in.-dia. copper pipe that had frozen and split open. Again, the beauty of this approach is that you can permanently repair the pipe -- without solder -- in less than 10 minutes.

Start by shutting off the water to the entire house at the meter or well-pump pressure tank. Drain the system by opening all the faucets on the lowest level. Next, remove the compression nut and ferrule (ring) from each end of the repair coupling. Hold the copper coupling up to the pipe, making sure it's centered on the damaged spot. Mark the pipe 1 in. in from each end of the coupling (photo 1). This overlap is necessary to allow the coupling to slip over the pipe ends.

Cut out the damaged pipe section with a hacksaw or tubing cutter. If space is limited, use a mini-tubing cutter (photo 2). Remove the burrs and any rough spots from the just-cut pipe ends with a strip of emery cloth or fine-grade sandpaper. Take the compression nuts and ferrules that you removed earlier from the coupling and slide them onto the pipe ends. Then slip the repair coupling into place (photo 3) and tighten the nuts with two wrenches (photo 4). Finally, turn the water back on and carefully check for any leaks.

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