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.