Pinhole Repair

Although galvanized-iron piping hasn't been widely used since the 1940s, it still exists in millions of homes. The problem with iron pipe is that it corrodes from the inside out, making it difficult to tell what condition it's in. The first sign of trouble often appears as a pinhole leak. If you don't patch the hole, it will grow larger without your being aware of it.

The quickest, easiest way to repair a pinhole leak is with a stainless-steel pipe repair clamp. It consists of steel band that's lined with a thick rubber gasket. When the clamp's bolt is tightened down, the gasket plugs the leak. Pipe repair clamps won't stop corrosion from spreading. Once you've repaired the leak, have a plumber check out the condition of all the pipes in the system.

Pipe repair clamps come in two lengths -- 3 and 6 in. -- for use on pipes ranging from 3/8 to 3 in. dia. However, the 1/2- and 3/4-in. clamps are the most common sizes by far, costing between $4 and $9.50. For our repair, we used a 1/2-in.-dia. 5 3-in. clamp from Prairie Home Products.

After shutting off the water and draining the system, use a putty knife to scrape away all rust, corrosion and dried gunk from the area around the pinhole leak (photo 1). Wipe the pipe clean with a cloth soaked in warm water, then dry the pipe. Next, spread open the clamp and slip it around the pipe (photo 2). Rotate the clamp so that its rubber gasket is centered over the pinhole. Pinch the clamp closed and press the clamp's bolt down between the prongs of the iron lug (that's the U-shaped fitting attached to the steel band). Use a wrench to tighten the nut on the bolt (photo 3). Turn the water back on and immediately check for leaks. Then check again once a day for the next few days to make sure that no water is leaking out from under the gasket.

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