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I discovered a very tiny hole/scratch in a copper pipe in my basement this morning. It looks like the scratch was caused by a screw that was holding up some wood paneling. The hole is in the middle of a run (not at a joint) and drips only once every 5 or 10 seconds. The pipe carries water from the boiler, so ideally the less surgery the better to repair it.

enter image description here

Apologies for the not great image...hopefully you can see the small scratch on the left side along with the water pooling on the pipe in the middle.

I have a plumber coming out this afternoon but this seems like something I should be able to fix myself with a little solder or something else. Any recommendations?

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    Make sure that is the actual area of the leak and the water wasn't running down the pipe from elsewhere. You can use a paper towel to easily detect water running along the pipe. – ratchet freak Jan 4 at 15:51
  • Slap a flex tape on that – Ruslan Jan 4 at 17:32
  • Is this pipe running horizontal or vertical? If vertical, it will probably dry and can be soldered. For horizontal runs where there is residual water that could impede the ability to solder, I’ve seen propress fittings used with good results. – kponz Jan 4 at 17:49
  • I had a leak that looked like that; it turned out that the whole length had been thinned by internal corrosion. I suggest gently squeezing the pipe with pliers to evaluate. – blacksmith37 Jan 4 at 22:15
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I have not seen patches hold up on copper. What I find best is to cut it at the hole and sweat a coupler on. It must be dry when you do the soldering or it will leak.

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    Yeah, repairing pipe just isn't a reliable approach. Look for a coupler that allows you to slide it fully onto the pipe if you don't have enough movement available. If you do you could use a Sharkbite coupler to avoid soldering. – isherwood Jan 4 at 15:16
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    If you use a good silver bearing and know how to solder well a coating on the pipe will hold till your great grand children own the house. – d.george Jan 4 at 17:32
  • I am quite good at silver soldering I not only do I do water pipe but HVAC. Solder only even if properly done is not as reliable as a coupling especially since the hole was due to wearing a thin spot the coupling provides mechanical strength so although I could seal a leak like that getting the pipe dry would be almost impossible compared to cutting and installing a coupler. – Ed Beal Jan 4 at 19:44
  • If you do decide to solder patch, you may as well go as far as cutting a coupling in half and solder on a plate. If you're accurate enough with a hacksaw the plate can actually go about 60-70% of the way around. Just cut two slits lengthwise instead of halving it vertically. – K H Jan 5 at 2:32
  • What is a coupler? What kind of coupler? What does it mean to sweat it on? How does one solder onto copper? What equipment does that require? Should one cut out a section (two cuts)? How long should the section be? Must the cut be perfectly perpendicular? Can one do that with a hacksaw? How does one steer the two ends into/onto/over the coupler? Is this something a regular house owner can do? How the hell did this answer consisting of three short sentences get 12 upvotes? While it may be the correct approach, the answer gives almost no guidance at all on how to actually do anything. – Mads Skjern Jan 5 at 20:25
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I've had some success with this stuff - it's basically a fiber tape soaked in something like gorilla glue. But I'd only consider it a temporary repair. the right way is to cut the pipe and solder in a coupler.

enter image description here

  • I've used 'self-sticking tape' (sorry I don't know the right term) for minor plumbing repairs. If you stretch it as you wrap it, you can get a watertight seal. It won't leave anything on the pipe either as it bonds to itself, not the pipe. – JimmyJames Jan 4 at 18:17
  • @JimmyJames That's self-amalgamating tape, and it's only suitable for temporary use until a proper repair can be made. – Andrew Morton Jan 5 at 12:13
  • @AndrewMorton Sure the answer also refers to a temporary solution. Having said that, I once cleaned a bunch of gunk out of a waste pipe and discovered that gunk was allowing it to hold water. I wrapped the pipe with this and it was good for months until I could replace the pipe. – JimmyJames Jan 7 at 16:56
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You could lay a coating of solder on the pipe, preferably a silver bearing alloy, but you would have to drain that pipe and have "it bone dry". You could clean the copper, drop the boiler pressure to near zero so the drip stops and lay on a coat of fast dry epoxy. These are 2 ideas, hope this helps Also, Home DEpot sells a 1/2" copper compression X compression repair coupling in a 12 lingth length.

  • I can't remember how many times I had tried, but it took until I had about 10y experience to be able to lay a worthwhile bead over a crack in a copper pipe. But it's not a giant split from freezing that you have to squish back together. Here, I'd give even a novice a 50/50 shot on success the first time, assuming they clean it right, flux it, and don't burn a hole in the pipe. – Mazura Jan 5 at 7:13
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A common option in the UK (dunno if they are available in other countries) for fixing damaged copper pipes is a compression repair coupler. The coupling has compression fittings on both ends only one of which has a depth stop, so after cutting the pipe you can slide the fitting onto one pipe and then slide it back onto the other with minimal movement of the pipe ends.

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    Compression couplers are available but much more expensive, however for a novice this may reduce the chance of a leak + – Ed Beal Jan 4 at 19:47
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What I've done in the past is to saw a coupler in half lengthwise, use a file to remove the center ridge (unless you can find a "repair coupler" that lacks the ridge), thoroughly clean and flux the pipe and inside of the coupler, tie half of the coupler on with bare copper wire (after cleaning/fluxing it), then (after making sure the pipe is perfectly dry inside) sweat-solder the assembly. Of course, this requires a couple of inches clearance all around to allow soldering safely.

Anymore, I'd just buy a SharkBite coupling, cut the pipe at the defect, then install that coupling.

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An option I haven't seen suggested, but one that I've seen several times and employed at least once myself, is to use a clamp to secure a rubber gasket. There are commercially made clamps enter image description here

or you can cobble your own with a piece of inner tube and a hose clamp.

I wouldn't recommend these for concealed use, but where the patch will be accessible I think they're fine, and probably code-accepted in at least some cases.

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If the pipe sizes in your country do telescoping, then the next size up in copper pipe will fit exactly over your pipe as a sleeve. I would cut a small section of sleeve, removing the scratched section, and solder the sleeve into place.

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