When you have a leaking pipe in your home you might be frustrated or even confused by all the ways you can repair a broken pipe. You may even be tempted to call someone to fix a simple repair, but after you read this article you’ll have the basic knowledge about plumbing and the different types of pipes so you can save time and money and make the repair yourself. So how do you seal a leaky joint better so that it is fixed properly and does not leak again?
To fix a leaky pipe joint, you first have to know what type of joint you have. If you have an IPS joint using some Teflon tape and pipe dope can effectively repair a leaky joint. If you have a soldered joint or a compression joint you’ll need to cut out the leaky section and replace it.
Now that you see how simple a basic repair can be, it doesn’t seem so intimidating, right?
Let me give you a quick overview of this article before we dive deeper into repairing a leaky joint the right way.
Now, let’s get down to business and understand our joints so we can make repairs super easy.
The key to making the correct repairs is to first know your joints. In the world of plumbing when the word joint is used it means a way in which two pipes are connected. There are several types of joints that are used in today’s homes, but for this article, we will cover the top 3 common joints.
IPS stands for Iron Pipe Size. Now, this is an older system that was used until after WW2. Now, this system means that the pipe does not have to be iron – in fact, the plumbing pipes are usually brass or PVC. But they do adhere to a particular pipe system, more information is here if you want the details.
They will usually have threads on the outside of the pipe (called a nipple) so that the pipe can easily be joined to another pipe.
Now, let’s look at this repair in a few simple steps:
Make sure your pipe is removed – or you have a new pipe to replace one that has been damaged.
Take your Teflon tape and remove the first few inches and discard it.
You do this to make sure your Teflon tape is nice and clean – no dust or dirt to compromise your new seal.
Lay a bit of the tape on your fingers as shown:
Take the pipe and wrap the threads three times – no need to overwrap the pipe. This is a common mistake made by many homeowners and can lead to a weaker seal.
Note: you’ll want to wrap the joint clockwise. So when you thread the pipe into the new one the thread does not come undone.
Now, you could stop here and have a perfectly sealed pipe. But if you want added peace of mind, read on for an optional step…
You can now take your pipe sealant (pipe dope) and add an extra coating on top of the Teflon tape.
This is just a very light coating (Insider tip: When taking their master plumbers license in NYC, a plumber could fail the test if they use too much dope!).
Now you have a sealed joint ready to be screwed into your existing pipe.
Now, to screw in the IPS pipe I want you to notice something here:
Notice how the threads are tapered. This means as you tighten the pipe down they will crush into to the wall of the pipe it is joining. This is what makes a good seal. But it also means you do not need to use to the strength of Hercules! Here is an easy way to secure the pipe…
You simply hand tighten the pipe down…
And when you can no longer tighten it by hand, grab your channel lock
and turn the pipe until about 3 to 4 threads are left exposed.
This leads us to our next joint…
This joins look like this…
And they are mechanical in nature.
The example here is a ⅜” compression coupling which is used to join to ⅜ inch pipe together.
This type of joint works on a nut and ferrule system and they are also called compression fittings
Notice that the treads are only on the nut itself. The ferrule is thin and not threaded. The system works by placing the ferrule over the threads of the pipe, and then the nut compresses the ferrule down over the threads – in effect creating one solid joint. Once used the nut and ferrule cannot be undone.
If you have a leak from this type of joint you must cut out the joint and replace it completely.
Oh, and if you need a great pipe wrench, check out this aluminum pipe wrench review…
On to our last joint…
Now, these joints will be found in most homes, and they will be common in sizes anywhere from ½” to 6 or 7”. In homes, you’ll find ½” to be pretty common.
Now, a leak in a solder joint will usually indicate one of two things:
Much like a compression joint the easiest way to repair a leak is to cut it out and replace the whole section. Again, you can grab your pipe cutter and remove the affected area and replace quite easily.
In fact, here is a good article that will show you exactly how to sweat the joint
And if you like to build your skills with home DIY projects and always thought about welding, check out these great DIY welding projects…
So there you have it. You can now easily identify the joints that you have and now you know how to seal a leaky joint better then most homeowners do. With a bit of practice, you’ll be a master of plumbing home repairs in no time.