How to Repair Pipes Quickly with Minimal Service Disruption

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Courtesy of InduMar Products, Inc.

If this has not yet happened to you, it will.

The time is 5:30 a.m. and your guests are just beginning to wake when you get an emergency call informing you that a pipe has sprung a leak. What are your options? Will you shut down the water for a few hours, leaving your guests without water to brush their teeth, take their showers, or flush the commodes while you cut out and replace the bad section of pipe? Or will you try to stop the leak in another manner that will provide your guests with the necessary water for their daily routine while you continue to maintain your high standards of customer satisfaction? Obviously, you need to repair the leak as quickly as possible, with the least amount of disruption and minimum safety hazard.

Choosing the proper leak repair method is critical in sustaining a well-maintained and functional piping system. While full replacement may be the ideal solution for the problem, it is not always the most practical, especially considering your guests’ comfort. For emergency situations such as this, you should be prepared with a variety of leak repair methods on hand as part of your standard operating procedure. It would be wise to explore options other than a time consuming replacement. There are several different methods that you might employ in a situation such as this.

Two important factors in determining which repair methods to employ are the composition of the pipe and the location of the leak. Straight run leaks can be the easiest to repair and clamps may be a traditional option. Clamps for bells, ells, tees, flanges and other unions are not readily available and are extremely expensive. It is cost prohibitive and next to impossible to maintain a complete specialty clamp inventory. Clamps require a structurally sound base but a pipe that is leaking may be in an advanced state of deterioration. The next leak will often be right next to or in proximity of the clamped spot. A ‘clamp farm’ can spring up. Once a clamp is in place, future leakage is highly probable. It is not the clamp’s fault or the installer’s. The abrasion of the turbulent water as it works away at the rupture site can slowly erode the hole inside of the clamp. Once the hole’s area exceeds the clamp’s limits, an even more difficult repair scenario has been created.

Epoxy resin compounds, and polyester-based fiberglass materials have been around for years, but most of them require ideal application conditions and detailed surface preparation as well as very long cure times. Pipe repair jobs using polyester or vinyl ester resins and fiberglass usually require an experienced contractor.

An excellent alternative is the STOP IT® PIPE REPAIR SYSTEM, a very effective leak repair product which is far more flexible in handling a vast assortment of piping diameters and configurations. The STOP IT® PIPE REPAIR SYSTEM is a state-of-the-art water activated, knitted fiberglass pipe wrap that will fix most leaks in 30 minutes. The repair kit comes complete with all of the materials needed to accommodate a single repair. Each kit includes the roll of water-activated knitted fiberglass tape hermetically sealed in a foil pouch, a NSF certified two-part, pre-measured hand moldable epoxy stick, a pair of latex gloves to keep the operation clean and neat, and an easy to follow instruction sheet.

The system works on all metal and plastic pipes including copper, steel, fiberglass, PVC, cast iron, stainless steel, etc. and can be used on water, gas, steam, fuel and other lines. The knitted fiberglass tape easily conforms around elbows, tees, and other complex fittings that clamps cannot conform to. The epoxy stick is applied to fill any holes or cracks that have developed in the leak location or is applied to pipe joints and threads. The system is ideal for situations where the work area is too small for replacement or access is limited, such as pipe coming out of a wall or slab, or a fitting near a tank. All you need is enough room to wrap the product around the leak site. The leak site needs minimal preparation. Knock off any dirt or loose scaling such as heavy rust (tight scale is fine), and roughen the surface with sandpaper or a file. Tight rust scale is fine as is. There’s no need to roughen it. The work site does not have to be clean or dry. In fact, these systems can even be applied underwater.

Begin by opening the repair kit and laying out the contents. Read the directions thoroughly. Although water activated fiberglass repair tapes are easy to apply there are specific steps that must be followed to implement a successful repair. Pinhole leaks are relatively easy to repair. If you are fixing an active leak, try to temporarily relieve the pressure down to about 20PSI or gravity flow. Since the product completely cures in 30 minutes, you can return to full pressure very quickly. Use the “rule of thumb” – if you can stop the leak by pressing your thumb against it, you can probably repair it while it is leaking. First, put a little water in a pail (or use the empty STOP IT® tub) and then put on the gloves. Hand mold the pre-mixed epoxy that is contained in the kit and fill the hole. If you are repairing a thread leak, roll the epoxy into a “worm” shape and apply it into the threads. (Note: If you are repairing an active leak and the product flow pushes the epoxy away, then prepare a small piece of epoxy and set it aside.) Open the foil pouch and extract the fiberglass roll from the pouch. (Note: For an active leak, take the piece of epoxy you set aside, flatten it into a small pancake, unroll the first few inches of the roll and push the epoxy into the fiberglass about 4 inches from the end of the roll.) Submerge the fiberglass roll in water for about 5 seconds, squeezing the roll slightly. This step activates the precoated polyurethane resins. Once you’ve opened the pouch, you must work quickly, as the resins will start to cure within three to five minutes. Tightly wrap the entire roll around the pipe, creating a mechanical bond between each of the layers. Then apply pressure around the repair with your hands and rub the resins that foam out of the tape back into the tape. This step is crucial to the proper finish of the product and will create a shiny 'cap' on the surface of the finished application. After a 30-minute cure, a properly applied repair can withstand up to 400 PSI and up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Stop it® Pipe Repair System can also be used for preventive maintenance to structurally strengthen a weak coupling or fitting, to rebuild a thinning pipe wall, and for corrosion protection. This technique will help prevent failures, avoid long shut downs at inopportune times, reduce operating costs and allow for the more efficient scheduling of pipe repair and replacement work. Most importantly, it will help keep your guests satisfied and totally unaware of all of the hard work you’re doing behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly. Isn’t that the way it should be?

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