Instructables

How to Fix a Broken Pipe Inside a Wall

Here's a quick photo-essay about my Sunday afternoon: An outside hose bibb was leaking around the handle, so I decided to replace it. * I couldn't remove the old hose bibb from a piece of galvanized pipe, so I removed the pipe too, and found what looked like a brass fitting inside the wall. * Once I had installed a new length of pipe and hose bibb, I turned the house water back on, and heard it leaking inside the wall. Thinking I hadn't tightened it enough, I really beared down and gave the bibb/pipe combo a good crank to seal the connection in the wall. That's when I felt a pipe inside the wall break, and heard water start blasting inside the wall. *

Fortunately, I have access to the other side of the wall through the garage, so I cut a hole and installed a valve upstream of the break. I didn't have time to do a full repair and re-route the pipe outside, so that's where I've left it for now.

It took three separate trips to Home Depot -- represented above by *'s -- which seems about average for me and plumbing disasters. Things I could have learned: try to remove the broken item before going to get parts. That would have saved one trip to get the additional length of pipe.

I don't think I've ever soldered copper pipes in a non-emergency setting. Last time, our hot water heater failed the day before my parents arrived for a week's stay. If you'd like to do your own plumbing, I strongly recommend learning to solder on a project that doesn't require the water to the entire house to be off.

Thanks to zachninme for taking photos!

2008-08-31 Update: Since I know everyone is dying to know how this turned out, I've add a few more pictures. With the right tools and parts in hand, I replaced everything from the broken copper pipe out to the hose bid, and removed the valve inside the wall. The tricky part was mounting a brass 1/2 NPT female to copper 1/2 elbow. Originally, this piece was nailed into a stud and then the copper was soldered on before the walls were finished. I didn't want to make a big hole in the stucco on the exterior wall and I couldn't safely get my torch into the confined space, so I soldered some copper elbows onto this brass elbow and then mounted it with machine screws coming in from behind through the stud (screw heads on the inside where I could access them through the hole in the drywall, and bolts on the other side with the brass elbow where I positioned and tightened them by feel).

Having opened a plumbing battle on this front, I decided to fix a bunch of other plumbing problems around the house, which I'll write about shortly in an Instructable.

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tech-king6 years ago
your not supposed to heat that kind of valve without first removing the core and packing!
Oops:

;-)

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bumpus6 years ago
Its great to see some of Eric's recent projects/problems :D Glad you got your pipe fixed Eric!
Goodhart bumpus6 years ago
yes, we honestly need more Plumbing instructables.....do we have one on toilet replacement ?
ewilhelm (author) 6 years ago
I just added a few more pictures and an update.
Kiteman6 years ago
It's always the way with a simple job, isn't it?

It took and entire weekend, including three trips to the DIY store and an exchange of photos by email with my dad to cure what seemed to be a ground-level damp problem caused by a leaking main, but turned out to be splash-back from a leaking overflow from the upstairs toilet that turned out to be exactly over the water-main.

The toilet wasn't over-flowing, but the pipe had perished and water was leaking through the pipe from the cistern.

The pipe was cemented firmly into our foot-thick rubble-filled wall, and the fitting where it turned 90o into the cistern isn't made that size any more.

I ended up having to cut up a new fitting, jigsaw the pieces into place, and then glue the whole thing back together.

No, I don't have any photos - I was covered in glue.
Rishnai Kiteman6 years ago
Ha, that's how it always goes for me and glue, too. Up to my elbows sometimes. Like today I didn't even know I had gotten that particular blob of gorilla glue on myself until I thought I had cleaned up and went to scratch my elbow. Thinking to myself, "when did that tumor get there? Wait TUMOR!? (pick pick scratch) Nope, just glue. Wait, GLUE!? How long have I been walking around with a golfball-sized blob of foam attached to my elbow? How close did I come to gluing my elbow to the sofa?!?"
Oh when I tried to replace one simple (right) pipe under our kitchen sink, it took me 5 weeks of struggle and 5 trips to Ace Hardware to get what I needed and one specialty tool I needed. Coupled with the fact that, at the time, it was nearly impossible for me to GET under the sink (I was very tubby that summer). What I mess. I can really sympathize...
Yeh, they always fit the bits that are going to leak during the actual build, when there weren't things like walls in the way.
CameronSS6 years ago
Nice spin on the old joke-- How many MIT Ph.Ds does it take to fix a leaky pipe...
WHEN WAS ZACH THERE???
Don't shout. ;-) He was there on the 27th.
zachninme ll.136 years ago
Jeeze! I didn't know I was being stalked! :P I got there on the 23rd, but I'm back now. It was a short visit ;-)
ll.13 zachninme6 years ago
...about my Sunday afternoon...Posted on Tuesday, Jul 29

Simple deduction. =P
(so, no, I don't stalk you)