Thursday, May 8, 2008

Stop Pipe Water Leaks

Diagnosing plumbing leaks

Pipes leak or burst for a number of reasons — freezing, blockages, corrosion, and failed joints and seals, to name a few. To stop a plumbing leak, determine if the source is the home's water-supply or water- and waste-removal system. Supply lines are under constant pressure. When a fitting or pipe springs a leak, water will spray or pour from the break. Water quickly pooling on the floor or dripping from the ceiling is a good indication of a supply-line problem. Shut the supply off, either at a fixture or elsewhere in the plumbing system, to stop the flow. Pinpointing the exact location of the leak can be difficult. Be prepared to search behind walls or remove a portion of the ceiling to make a repair. Loose fittings and blockages cause most leaks in the drainage system. Leaks usually appear as a slow drip under or near fixtures. Clearing blockages will prevent toilets and sinks from overflowing.

Temporary Fixes for Broken Pipes

After you've located the leak, there are a few quick fixes you can make. Using a hose clamp or a C-clamp and a piece of wood, secure a piece of rubber over the leak until a full repair can be made. Or buy an emergency plumbing-repair kit, available at most hardware stores. An old plumbers' tip: If you find a pinhole leak, break off the tip of a pencil in the hole and then cover it.

Shutting down the water supply

Most plumbing systems have shut-off valves at numerous locations, allowing you to isolate problems. Find the one nearest to the leak and turn it off while you make repairs. Faucets, toilets, and appliances such as water heaters have individual shut-off valves. Find the valve and turn it clockwise to stop the flow. On gas-fueled water heaters, don't confuse the flexible gas line with the water-supply line. The water-supply line usually enters through the top.

Turn off the main water supply if you can't find a valve close to a leaking or burst pipe. Normally, a single pipe delivers water to your home. Find the valve located where the supply pipe enters the house — or the one next to your water meter — and turn it off. This cuts off water to the entire house. Every family member should know where this is located. Then look for a valve closer to the fixture so you can restore water service to the remainder of the house while you fix the problem.

Stop Roof Water Leaks

Roof leaks can be very deceiving; they rarely become evident at the source. Typically, water enters through broken shingles or flashing, then flows along roof sheathing or attic rafters until it finds a convenient place to drip down (see inset at right). There are several likely sources.

Broken shingles are a good tip-off. Anything that protrudes through the roof — such as chimneys, vent stacks, dormers, and skylights — is a possible source. Scan your roof (use binoculars) and look for broken shingles or damaged flashing. If there is no obvious problem, head to the attic during daylight hours.

Look for wet spots or, in dry weather, water marks on the wood. Track the evidence of dampness to its source, then look for a small ray of light coming through the ceiling — the offending hole.

Quick Cover-up

To stop a roof leak temporarily, unroll enough 6-mil polyethylene sheeting to cover the leaky area, plus enough extra to extend several feet over the roof ridge. Wrap each end around a 2-by-4 and staple along the fold; sandwich the sheeting with a second 2-by-4. Place this assembly over the ridge, toward the non-leaking side, then spread the sheeting over the leaking section.

Repair a Broken Asphalt Shingle

1. Remove the nails from the broken shingle, taking care not to damage the shingle overlapping the broken one.

2. Nail down a new shingle. Use a utility bar to drive the nails to avoid damaging the overlapping shingle.

3. Apply roofing cement. Dab it over the new nails and under the edges of all the shingles you disturbed.