This Instructable shows how to use white bread and standard pipe sweating techniques to repair a leaking copper pipe. There are a ton of excellent instructions online and here at Instructables for pipe sweating, this isn't meant to replace those, but rather to show a trick I learned over a decade ago for sweating a pipe that is actively leaking. Normally you hope that by cutting off your mains and draining your lines you can eliminate any water leaking from the pipe you're trying to sweat. Sometimes you can get any extra out by using a shop vac. But sometimes you're screwed and a persistent drip will make it nearly impossible to do a proper solder because boiling water coming through a seam doesn't allow for the solder to set where it should. This is a cheap work around. There are commercial products that produce a similar result, usually wax plugs or other things that melt away as you sweat. That might work, but I have to imagine some wax is left behind because by the time you turn the water back on the wax won't be liquid anymore, but I digress.
I apologize if my pictures are a little dark or blurry. I had to do this in the dark while it was raining on my back, but we don't usually get to pick when these things happen, so I'm just glad I remembered to take photos at all.
Tools and Materials:
Couplers (correct diameter)
Extra length of pipe (correct diameter)
Non Lead Solder
Step 1: The Situation
In this case I noticed a pretty good twist in the pipe right against the wall and a small crack that was leaking water, and this is right above my main. There are other Instructables on patching pipes, making the cuts, and sweating so I'll move fast through those parts. I'm not trying to compete with those and they are excellent, I'm just showing a trick for doing it when leaky. So I punched out a bit of wall and cut out the bad section with a pipe cutter. Use a pipe cutter, as much fun as power tools are, they and copper piping do not go well together... you will not get straight cuts and straight cuts are crucial to prevent leaks. Most copper pipe cutters cost less than 10 bucks. I bought one today for 8.50 after realizing what a disaster my grinders metal cut off wheel was making. Use standard sweating techniques to put a new pipe section in and the couplers needed, right up until the last bit which never quite quit leaking. I tried for about 5 minutes to sweat this piece on before realizing it would be impossible and remembered this trick my old boss taught when I was a kid working a summer job.
Step 2: Pipe Preparation
Step 3: One Way to Use Bread That Won't Make You Fat
I only had some white bread laying around that I baked last week. It's delicious bread and I'll have to make that into an Instructable one day too, I'm a much better baker than a plumber. Anyway, this was a thick end cut off the loaf that was left. You need probably about half to three quarters of a piece of Wonder Bread to give you an idea... maybe a little more or less depending on the volume of your leak. If you're getting a lot of water to the point where this doesn't work, you've got something else going on... figure that out first. You need enough bread to absorb the leak for a long enough period to complete the sweating. I used this amount of bread and this is a 1" pipe and it worked fine.
Stuff your bread into the pipe on the leaking side. Stuff it in as far back as your finger will reach.
Step 4: Sweat
Yes my soldering is ugly, cut me some slack. It was raining and dark, I was drunk and had a huge knot swelling up on my head and I'm no plumber. The solder held so I'm happy. Tomorrow I guess I'm cleaning up this hole in the wall.
Let the pipe fully cool off, to the touch, before kicking the water back on. Don't try and splash any water or anything on it to speed up the process, this might shock your whole mess and result in another leak. Once it's cooled off put pressure back in the pipe by turning on the water main, and open your hose valve and bread bits may or may not shoot out. If you have a little filter in there you can take that out and speed up the process, but the bottom line is the junk trapped in the pipe is bread and will pretty quickly disintegrate and get out of your system.