Repairing copper pipes can be done the old-fashioned way | Fred kreigh


Q. If a copper pipe freezes, does it need to be replaced? Bob from Kendallville

A. Okay, Bob, let’s talk copper, not that silver coated thing you buy for your wife. I’m taking the right things – the plumbing. Copper tubing is a mainstay of the plumbing industry due to its durability, availability, and workability. The latter can be a reference for you.

As you know, when water freezes, it expands; the harder the gel, the greater the expansion. This expansion can exert incredible force. It’s kind of like a fat lady trying to slip into a leotard – there’s so much going in and then something is going to come apart. You don’t want that to happen!

The same scenario is true for your copper plumbing. It can withstand a freeze – although it is not recommended – as long as it does not freeze hard enough to split it.

Typical residential copper lines can be found in three thicknesses, K, L, and M. K is the thickest and is typically used for underground lines and under slabs. The copper pipe that brings water into your home is almost certainly K. M – the thinnest-walled copper – is found in the rigid pipes that deliver water to the fixtures in your home.

When the line freezes, it creates a bulge in the pipe wall, thinning the wall and eventually creating a lengthwise slit on the pipe.

Catch the gel early enough, thaw the line by warming it up, and you’ll be fine.

If you see a small bulge in the pipe, be aware that this is a potential problem waiting to happen. The thicker wall pipe will take a little more than the stiff one, but trust me, you don’t want to see this leotard split.

Repair is not that difficult. You can cut off the damaged piece and connect a new piece of pipe using a few couplers, a piece of pipe, and solder.

If you are not a fan of copper pipe soldering, they make an amazing range of products that mechanically attach to the pipe and do the same. Personally, I prefer the good old fashioned way – but that’s probably because I’m old and old-fashioned.

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