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esp6107 06-06-2008 01:19 PM

Copper pipe leak - in over my head - maybe
After 20 years a tee fitting in the roof of the basement started to drip - not much, a few drops a day. I knew the districts water pressure had been going up over the years, but I didn't realize how much. It was water logging my water hammers and I had to drain the system every couple of months to stop the pipes from banging. I remember it being 38 when I built the house. I put a gauge on it and was now running 88 psi.

I am a handy kind of guy, but not a plumber.

I bought a pressure regulator, cut the service above the shutoff, sweated in the fittings, and after finding a wrench long enought to seal the screw on fittings I am now running about 40 psi with no leaks at the regulator.

THE PROBLEM: The tee fitting still has a small drip. This is the lowest place in the system - the service comes in between the joists and elbows down to cross under them and cross the basement before turning upstairs. I don't think I can just reheat the joint - it would still be wet and the leak would have left mineral deposits as well.

I am thinking I need to cut the line a foot or so ahead of the tee, seperate, clean and re sweat the tee and then sweat a connector in the line where I cut it.

Is there an easier way?

Termite 06-06-2008 01:27 PM

Howdy neighbor. I'm in Mission, KS.

You'll need to cut out that fitting and re-do it. Reheating won't work in too many cases, because you need flux in the void to draw the solder in.
You either didn't get it clean, didn't get flux on it, water got to it while you were soldering, or you melted your flux out with too much heat before the solder got in that part of the joint.

Start with a fresh new fitting, flux, and clean pipe.

Be sure to get all the water away from the joint. If that is tough, push tightly rolled balls of white bread up into the pipe a few inches to prevent water from running into the part of the pipe you're working on.

The connector you need is a slip coupling. It will slide over the pipe so you can butt the new and the old together and then slide it down. Use lots of flux!

clasact 06-06-2008 01:29 PM

this is just a thought but instead of all that sweating why not cut the pipe and put a shark bite tee fitting in quick easy and they hold real well

mstplumber 06-06-2008 01:38 PM

It sounds like you know how to solder, so it would probably be best if you just completely remove the tee and replace it. I know it is tempting to just take it apart and re-do it, but the fittings will cost you less than $5 total and it will be much easier to work with clean, new fittings. I'd get a couple of slip couplings (with no stop in the middle) so you don't have to fight the copper trying to get it back together. Cut the tee out, slide the slip coupling all the way onto the pipe so the copper can line back up, mark the pipe with a pencil at 1/2 the length of the coupling and slide it back onto the other piece of pipe.

You already know to clean and flux the pipe before assembling everything so you should have no problem. Since this is the low point in your system it may take a few minutes for all of the water to drain out. If you first open the hose bibbs (after shutting off the water) and then open all the faucets in the house, you will minimize the amount of water left in the pipes. Some folks will tell you to use bread to block the water while you solder but I would rather wait a few minutes for the water to drain. Bread can sometimes stop things up or, even worse, only hold till you are part of the way finished. Then you have to cut things out and start over again.

If you really don't want to solder all of that you can use compression fittings but that will be lots more money and almost as much work. I think it's better to sweat it.

esp6107 06-06-2008 01:38 PM

Maybe I wasn't clear. It's not the fittings I put in that are the problem. It is a 20 year old tee that just started leaking last month.

Termite 06-06-2008 01:44 PM

Same procedure applies! Just be sure to clean the mating surfaces of the pipe thoroughly with emery cloth.

mstplumber 06-06-2008 01:46 PM

Obviously, we were typing our replies at the same time and thinking along the same lines. I know the bread trick works I just usually wait. Another trick to try is to use a wet-dry vac to suck the water out. That works pretty good sometimes too.

Also, clasact, I think Sharkbites rock, I just thought that it might be hard to squeeze one in place of a tee.

esp6107 06-06-2008 01:57 PM

Thanks, I wouldn't have thought of that. Cutting out all three sides and then asembling a new tee on the bench. That only leaves me with putting in three new connectors on clean pipe at locations of my choosing.
I was really worried about how to disassemble and reassemble the old joint. This solution looks a lot easier and more likely to succeed.


mstplumber 06-06-2008 02:01 PM

You're welcome!

Termite 06-06-2008 04:08 PM

I guess I've been lucky with the bread trick! My experience has been that it will blow right out after you recharge the lines with water. I just open the nearest downstream faucet or valve and viola, a little bread-water comes out!

Alan 06-07-2008 01:59 AM

Sharkbites are a great invention, however, if you know how to solder, and do it well, a sharkbite can never replace that.

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