A broken pipe inside a wall is the last thing you will want to handle as a homeowner. Fortunately, your broken pipe can be fixed and the cause of the damage managed. However, you require the right tools, skills, and knowledge to locate the broken pipe inside a wall and fix it by either repairing it or replacing the broken section. So, do you know how to fix a broken pipe inside a wall? Read on to find out how!
Causes of Pipes to Break Inside Wall
The leading cause of pipes breaking inside walls is freezing weather. When the temperatures fall degrees the water inside the pipes begins to expand and get close to freezing. And when the pressure increases, the pipe structure gets broken and this often occurs when the temperature drops down to around -6 degrees.
Signs that You have a Leaky Pipe Inside a Wall?
The signs that your pipe inside the wall is broken may go unnoticed or can be all over the place depending on the spot the pipe is broken and the magnitude of the breakage. These signs may include:
Water flooding is the most obvious sign of a broken pipe. If you realize puddles of water on the floor, or if the walls are excessively wet, or if you notice your water meter spinning crazily, then know you have a burst pipe somewhere in the walls.
When water leak from the pipe in the wall is not that obvious, you can notice some bubbles starting to form under the paint or wall covering of your walls.
Patches of Extra Green Grass
If a sewer pipe has broken outside your house and around your lawn, water will flood on your lawn. And if the lawn has experienced very green grass of late than usual, it is probably a damaged sewer pipe.
Mold growth is occasioned by too much moisture. Your home might have mold issues regardless. However, if you are experiencing mold growth at an exponential rate for the first time, the reason might be a damaged pipe inside your walls.
How to Access a Broken Pipe In a Wall
Since the damaged pipe is located behind the walls, it will be impossible to repair it without accessing it. So, how do you access the broken pipe in the wall?
Pinpoint the Location with a Moisture Meter or Visual Clues
Water from a broken pipe inside the walls often pools somewhere below where the pipe is actually broken. So, trace the signs of water damage like damaged drywall all the way until you find where the leakage is coming from. If you can’t exactly pinpoint the source visually, consider using a moisture meter.
- Consider using the pin-type moisture meter to probe the surface of your drywall or wood by piercing the pins into the material of the wall. The exact numbers of the probe are least important than the relative measurement. Therefore, check for wetter spots than their surroundings.
- A search mode meter can conveniently detect water behind a wall, however, it will take some setup to calibrate. For this reason, it is greatly useful for bathrooms with plenty of possible water sources.
- On the other hand, you can use a thermal imaging camera to detect wet spots that may be a sign of broken pipe.
Shut Off the Power Main Circuit
Once you have located the broken pipe inside a wall, switch off the main electricity circuit for your home and wear non-conductive gloves. You don’t want to risk cutting through nearby pipe hangers and live wires when cutting into your wall to access the broken pipe.
Most importantly, locate the wall studs first to avoid cutting into them. Studs often sound solid when knocked and are often located alongside power outlets and switches.
Cut into the Wall
Mark the wall you want to cut into with a utility knife to create guidelines. Cut along the score lines with a keyhole saw while doing it carefully with the tip of the saw to avoid hitting electrical wires or other water pipes running inside the wall. With the small hole, you have cut, examine the pipes, and located the leaking pipe. Proceed to cut to its location to access it.
How to Fix a Broken Pipe Inside a Wall
Once you have located the leaking pipes inside the wall, it is time to fix them and stop the leakage.
Shut Off the Water Valve for the Broken Pipe
The first thing to do is to check the pipes nearest to the leak for a shutoff valve which cloud be a small metal valve, tap, or handle with a flat head screwdriver slot. Turn it clockwise to switch off the water from flowing through the broken pipe.
However, if there is no local shut-off valve for the pipe, consider turning off the main valve for the entire home water supply.
Drain the Affected Water Pipe
Turn on the faucets connected to the broken water supply line to drain the remaining water. For instance, if the broken pipe is in the bathroom, turn on the bathroom faucet and allow it to run until no more water flows.
How to Temporarily Fix a Broken Pipe Inside a Wall
If you are unable to shut off the water supply, you can temporarily fix the pipe as you prepare for a permanent solution. So, how will your fix your broken pipe temporarily?
Wrap the Broken Section with Silicone Tape
Unlike the normal adhesive tapes, the silicone tape fuses to itself to make a watertight and pressure-resistant seal. For this purpose, cut a piece about 6 to 8 inches long press it on one side of the broken pipe, and wrap it around the hole multiple times while pulling it firm.
Wrap the second piece of tape around the first one to secure, but this time without pulling it as the first one. Alternatively, you can use electrical tape or duct tape for an extreme emergency case.
Seal with a Hose Clamp and Gasket
Another great option to temporarily fix your broken pipe when you cannot shut the water off is a small piece of rubber gasket, just enough to wrap halfway around the pipe. Place the rubber gasket over the leak and firmly secure it with a hose clamp around it. Make sure you tighten the hose clamp until it is snug but not excessively to damage the pipe even more.
This option is great for a pipe that is starting to split since clamps help take the stress of the splitting part. Just like the other solution, this one is equally appropriate for both metal and plastic pipes.
Use Epoxy Putty for a Medium-term Fix
The epoxy putty offers the best and strongest temporary fix to your broken pipe. However, it requires you to shut the water off while the putty cures. When using the epoxy putty consider wearing gloves. Mix the two components of the putty effectively and push it over the cracks or holes to cover it completely.
Even though this isn’t a permanent repair, it creates an excellent barrier until you get a permanent solution for the broken pipe. Whereas any epoxy putty can work, consider one that is formulated for the same material as your pipe type. Never use a plumber’s putty as it is only appropriate for sealing joints.
How to Fix a Broken Plastic Pipe
Cut the Damaged Section
If your plumbing system is made of plastic pipe and one of it has broken in the walls, its fixing is quite straightforward. Cut the pipe about 1 inch to either side of the leakages. Make the cut as straight as possible with a PVC pipe cutter, a hacksaw, or ratchet cutter.
With a sandpaper, file, or utility knife, clean off both the inside and outside of the cut until you achieve a smooth surface.
Use Compression Couplings for Accessible Pipes
The compression couplings are the easiest fix for accessible pipes. However, they are not the strongest. As such, use this method for pipes that are above ground and easily accessible for later check-ups, as well as check your local building code for limitations. Here is the procedure to install the compression couplings:
- Place 1 end cap, then 1 rubber brushing onto each end of the pipe
- Carefully, fit the coupling over both ends of the pipe and twist the end caps to create a watertight closure.
Attach Slip Fixes with Solvent Cement
The telescoping coupling is the perfect and stronger option for fixing broken pipes. However, you will need a solvent cement designed for your pipe’s material such as PVC, CPVC, or ABS, a primer for similar pipe material except for ABC, a standard coupling – a simple repair sleeve that fits over one end of the broken pipe, wear safety goggles, gloves, and sufficient ventilation. Here is the procedure for application:
- Dry-fit the coupling and the cut pipe together to confirm a perfect fit
- Coat the primer on the inside of the wide end of the slip fix and over one pipe end
- Brush the cement over the primer in an even coat
- Connect the coupling immediately and hold it in place for at least 30 seconds. Wipe off the excess primer and cement.
- Do the same to the telescopic end of the standard coupling and the other end of the pipe
- Allow it to cure as per the label instructions then flush out the pipe with water for about 10 minutes before using.
How to Fix a Broken Copper Pipe
If your broken pipe is copper, you can fix it as follows;
Cut the Broken Pipe on Each Side of the Leak
Cut about ½ inch of the pipe on either side of the damaged part but for extensive damage consider cutting an inch on either side. You can use the pipe slice or pipe cutter for quick cutting and the best results.
Prepare the Replacement Coupling and Original Pipe
Choose an ordinary copper ripe coupling should the gap be not more than ½ inch. If not, cut a piece of sweat coupling to a length of 1 inch longer than the gap and prepare both ends of the old and the new coupling to ensure flawless soldering.
- Using sandpaper or a deburring blade, remove the burs from the inside of the coupling and the outside of the original pipe.
- Use a wire-fitting brush or an emery paper wrapped around your finger to scrub the inside of the coupling.
- Clean the outer surface of the original pipe with the plumber’s abrasive cloth, emery paper, fine-grit sandpaper until it shines clean. Don’t touch the cleaned copper repair sleeve.
Solder the Surfaces Together
Apply the plumber’s flux on the areas where the pipes connect and not nowhere else. Connect the coupling and the pipe. Heat the connected section for about 30 seconds with a gas torch until the copper dulls and the flux material sizzles.
Place the solder wire against the seam while beginning at the bottom, if your pipe joint is horizontal, and allow the hot copper to melt it. Continue feeding in the solder around the joint as the flux draws it in until it completely seals the joint.
- Don’t use a solder that contains more than 5% lead when repairing water supply pipes.
- Allow the solder to cool for about a minute before allowing water to flow through and let the water run for at least 5 minutes to flush out debris before using the water. Check for leaks as the water flows in the repaired pipe
Maintaining your home’s plumbing system is a responsible task. That is why knowing how to fix a broken pipe inside a wall is important and it can be helpful, especially in emergency cases. However, your know-how may not be enough. Therefore, ensure your plumbing system is inspected at least every year to catch leaking water pipes before the problem escalates.