How To Patch a Pipe Leak
Pipes burst, pipes leak - if it happens to you, here are some steps to help you deal with the problem. This article deals primarily with what to do for a temporary fix. A permanent fix will vary with the plumbing involved and nature of the problem; refer to our plumbing section for more information on specific repairs.
The water supply is under pressure, typically somewhere around 40 to 60 psi. This means that simply covering a leaking pipe with a rag will have little effect other than redirecting the water. A patch on a leak requires counter-pressure as well as a compressible material to help in molding it to the shape of the crack, hole or damage to the pipe.
In ideal circumstances, you will be able to turn off the water supply before effecting repairs. If possible, turn off water at a local water supply valve. Otherwise turn off the water at the water main where it enters your home or at the city water valve. See our article about turning off the water main for more information.
Next, you will need a piece of material to cover the hole. Ideal materials include heavy gauge rubber such as an inner tube or the rubber lid-opener used in the kitchen. Another possibility is a piece of flexible leather, possibly from an old belt, purse or wallet. If you have PVC pipe available, roughly the diameter of the pipe being patched, you can cut a length of PVC, then cut out a chunk along the length creating a piece you can snap over then broken pipe. The patch must be bigger than the crack in the pipe.
Now a device to hold it in place is needed. An ideal device is a band clamp; such as the clamps used to hold the water hose onto the radiator in your car. It must be the right size to fit around the pipe and be able to tighten down on the pipe. Another possibility is locking pliers.
Place the patch over the hole. If you have band clamps, unfasten them all the way, wrap them around the patch and the pipe. Ideally, place one to the left and one to the right of the break and then a third directly over the break. Tighten them down enough to seal the leak, but not so tight that they crush the pipe (a risk greatest with plastic or copper pipe). If you only have locking pliers, close them over the patch and pipe, then tighten them by hand. Now unlock them and tighten them about one more turn; then relock them over the patch. If they cannot be closed with moderate effort, they may need to be loosened a fraction of a turn. If they are too loose, tighten them some more and try locking them over the patch again.
Turn the water back on and check whether your patch is working. Keep an on the patch until you can affect permanent repairs as the leak may worsen.