Plumbers and homeowners install copper pipes in homes to carry water to faucets and appliances. Copper provides a durable and long lasting vehicle to transport water. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a pinhole leak in a copper plumbing pipe.Many times homeowners notice a small puddle of water forming on the floor or may notice the copper pipe turning a greenish color, which is the first sign of a pinhole leak. Some homeowners mistakenly believe they have mold growing on its, but that is definitely not the case because copper rovides a hostile environment for mold. The green color is mostly likely a discoloration called a patina. A patina forms from the trace minerals found in water. There are other causes for green on its, butmost of them have to do with sloppy soldering in the first place.
Finding the pinhole leak in the copper pipe begs the question; does a tiny drip, drip, drip really require the services of a plumber or is this something a do it yourself type homeowner can accomplish on his or her own? The answer is yes, you can repair a tiny pipe leak yourself. For these small leaks you are not facing the major repipe project as many plumbers would like you to think. There are a few different methods to repair a pinhole leak in a pipe.
Temporary Fix for a Pinhole Leak
Even though this sounds a little strange, it will work for quite some time.
Buy a wooden dowel in about the same thickness as a pencil.
Use a pencil sharpener to create a sharp point. You can also whittle the end of the wood down to a sharp point with a utility knife.
Stick the sharp point of the dowel into the hole and snap the dowel off leaving the point behind in it to create a plug.
This work best for leaks that are slightly larger and only slightly, than a pinhole leak. The wood plug will not last forever, only until you have a chance to fix it properly.
Soldering a Pinhole Leak in a Pipe
Turn the water supply off at the main shut off valve. The main shut off valve is typically located in a basement or utility room where the water pipe enters your house for the outside. The shut off valve is usually a gate valve, or round handle type piece of metal. Turn the gate valve to the right as far as it can go to stop the water from entering the house.
Use a 220-grit or 320-grit sandpaper or plumber's emery cloth to clean the area around the pinhole. Rub the sandpaper or emery cloth on the copper until it is smooth and shiny.
Use a propane torch to heat the area of pipe. Keep waving the flame in constant back and forth motion while heating he copper pipe. Do not leave the flame to burn in one area because you will damage it.
Use a flux core, lead free solder.
Touch the solder to the heated area of it where the pinhole is located, if it has been heated properly the solder will melt and spread around it. Do not use the flame from the torch to melt the solder, only the surface heat of the copper pipe to melt it. If the copper pipe is not hot enough to melt the solder, continue to wave the flame from the propane torch over it and touch the solder to it.
Flux core, lead free solder is available at home improvement stores, hardware stores and plumbing supply houses. Never use leaded solder on water supply pipes where it can contaminate your water.
Turn the water back on at the main valve.
Safety When Soldering
When working with a propane torch and solder be sure to wear heat resistant gloves and safety glasses.
Move all flammable items away from the area to avoid the possibility of combustion.
Do not solder with your children or pets present.
If the hole is larger or there are several pinhole leaks in it, you may have to sweat in a new pipe. Sweating in a new pipe is not too difficult and can be accomplished by an eager do it yourself homeowner.