Dealing With Leaks
Of all the problems that can occur in your plumbing system, none have the potential to be as costly as a good, old fashioned plumbing leak. From a leaking water heater to a toilet leak, big or little, fast or slow, leaks cause millions of dollars in damage every year.
Plumbing leaks come in two varieties, water supply leaks and drain leaks. Although water pipe leak can do more damage faster, a leaking drain (or any kind of leak) should not be ignored. Just look at the Grand Canyon to see what water can do.
A leaking drain my be a toilet leak, a sink leak or any other leak on the drainage system. It will often show up as a spot on the ceiling below.
If you see a water spot on your ceiling, check directly above for a leak. If you find nothing there check under all the fixtures and in every vanity. Often water will run across a ceiling and show up in a seam or low spot.
It’s a good idea to check under all your cabinets periodically for leaks. If you find a problem you can often correct a small leak by just tightening the slip joint connections in the piping. If you have leaking metal p-traps you can probably change them to PVC for less than the price of a happy meal.
Leaks From Fixtures
Another common plumbing problem is leaks from individual fixtures. These vary from refrigerator water filter leaks to leaking kitchen faucets. Most of the time there are individual fixture stops, or valves, which turn the water off to that fixture only. If so, this allows you to stop the water leak and still have water to the rest of the house.
When you are checking under your cabinets pay careful attention to the stops and to the supply lines going to your faucets. These are prime places for leaks. Use your hands to feel for water on these since it is often hard to see a very small leak.
The Most Urgent Leaks
The most urgent kind of leak is a leak on the main water supply piping in your home. That’s why it is very important to know where your main water shut off is located and how to turn it off. If you have a supply pipe leak, getting the water turned off quickly can prevent thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Galvanized Pipe Is Especially Tricky
Once the water is off you can begin to try to determine what the problem is. If you have an older house you may have galvanized pipe leaks. These are especially tricky because when you fix one you may cause another by disturbing the old pipe.
Nails Don’t Always Leak Right Away
A fairly common cause of leaks in copper piping is a nail in the pipe. Many times these leaks will not show up for quite some time, however long it takes the nail to rust away. Always be very careful when installing baseboard or other trim.
Working With Plastic Pipe
While leaks in galvanized or even copper pipes require special skills and tools, plastic piping is fairly easily repaired. You need to be sure what kind of pipe you have because different types of pipe use different glues and cements. Pay close attention to the curing times for the cement so your fresh repair doesn’t blow apart when you turn the water back on.
Some plastic pipe, like PEX, can’t be glued and must be joined using special fittings. The pros usually use barbed fittings with crimp rings and special crimping tools but there is a fairly new product that you can use called a shark bite fitting. Unlike its namesake, a plumbing shark bite type fitting is a good thing.
Shark Bite Fittings
These plumbing shark bite fittings just push on to the pipe. No tools or special skills required! The only time you need a tool is to remove them. What’s so really good about these plumbing shark bite fittings is that they actually work very well and are used by many professional plumbers every day.
So…we’ve learned that all plumbing leaks are not a reason for alarm. Many are simple to fix with easily learned skills.
Copyright 2009 Bryan Stevens