Pinhole leak at elbow joint. Possible fix?

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Old 09-20-11, 04:07 PM
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Pinhole leak at elbow joint. Possible fix?

I have a pinhole leak in an outside copper pipe running down the outside of my house leading to an underground irrigation system. The leak is right where a straight copper section is soldered into an elbow joint, so as far as I know, a sweat coupling or a temporary clamp is not an option. The pipe also as been painted, and there is some mineral buildup in the joint area around the leak (probably the cause). My first thought was to sand/melt off as much paint and minerals as possible, and just re-solder over the area. Being a novice (I have soldered copper pipes before), I'm not sure what the likelihood of this working is (especially not being able to completely dry and clean the inner pipe, as well as the paint and mineral buildup possibly causing the solder not to adhere properly). Another thought was a temporary fix with plumber's epoxy. If I were to cut the pipe and replace the sections, I believe I'd have to cut and couple the straight pipe on both sides of the elbow joint, thereby having four joints to solder (the two couplings and the two ends of the elbow), and have to lineup the horizontal and vertical pipe sections exactly to fit. It seems too much work to simply fix a small pinhole leak, and possibly too much room for error. Since the pipe is outside, very accessible, non-potable, and has it's own cut-off valve, I'm not overly worried about potential flooding from a temporary solution. I'm just looking for the easiest way to repair it that could potentially last a number of years. Any thoughts or ideas about the best way to tackle this? Thanks!
 
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Old 09-20-11, 04:20 PM
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In a word: Shark-Bite

You will not have any success at all trying to resolder an existing fitting. It is leaking from the solder joint, and not an actual pinhole in the fitting, correct?

SharkBite Elbows SharkBitePlumbing.com

The big box stores carry these, or similar, products. I think Lowes has 'Gator Bite'... and they are all basically the same thing, but the quality does vary. Since it's outdoors, you could probably get by with the cheaper ones.

Drain pipe, remove old fitting with torch, polish with sandpaper to get all the 'gunk' off, push the new fitting on... done!
 
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Old 09-20-11, 04:27 PM
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Hi,

What you do is drain the pipe to make sure all the water is out. Then heat the pipe a little. It helps get the paint off. Use emery and what you can and clean it up. Get the area good and clean right where the pipe enters the joint.

Flux, flux, flux...... Did I say flux? You need to heat that joint until you see some solder melting. Sometimes you dont see it melt. Glob flux around the heated joint. Dont over heat. Add solder. The solder may not flow like a new joint, but when you get some solder on ther, flux the heck out of it, solder again, flux solder..etc

The flux cleans the joint enough to get the solder to flow. The key is not to overheat the joint.

Sometimes it just dont work and you may need to pull the joint. If there is play I often just knock the fitting off. The old pipe ends can be cleaned up. If there is no or little play I sometimes will cut the ell in half to get it off. This way I just add the fitting back and dont have to add couplings.

Let us know.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 09-20-11, 04:51 PM
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I had a copper fitting on my boiler system develop this kind of leak. I had the plumber come back to fix it. Well it leaked again and I'm pretty sure it was because they tried scabbing new solder onto the joint. At that point I was going to fix it myself. I heated the joint up and pulled it apart. I then wiped the solder off both sides of the joint. I was able to remove any left over on the male side with emery cloth and then used one of those round metal brushes on the female side. Put the pieces back together and soldered her up. So far so good. I would recommend just replacing your 90 degree fitting with a new one because it will be easier.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 08:07 AM
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A 15 minute job using SharkBite fittings. You'll have to get the pipe down to bare metal to get a good seal but if you do it correctly it will never leak.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 02:07 PM
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I personally like the Sharkbite stuff, and have used quite a bit of them. I still don't have the 'guts' to use them inside a wall, or underground, but they are supposedly approved for such.

I know that Lawrosa is not keen on them because he has seen some leakers. I will venture to say that the leakers are probably from improper installation. As you said Wayne, the pipe needs to be clean, with no burrs from the cutter. I also believe that there should be zero tension on the joint, if you jam one in place with a lot of sideways force, yeah, it will probably leak eventually.

I'm talking about the real deal, Cash Acme SharkBite, not the cheap knockoff crap.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 02:41 PM
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I know that Lawrosa is not keen on them because he has seen some leakers
Yeah they have thier place. I just assume sweat whatever I need to. Saves me $$$$.

I wonder if the leakers I have seen are actually install error or defects.

I admit I have used them and often find, I myself did not push them in all the way. I always triple check them things and find I can often get them in another 1/4"

Mike NJ
 
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Old 09-25-11, 03:58 PM
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I have one SharkBite in a wall. I was concerned for the first year or so. It's been in there for over 5 years now w/o a problem so I quit sweating it (pun intended).

I agree with Mike - it's all about the correct assembly. I have quite a bit of experience with "O" ring joints and I am convinced that a properly designed and assembled static joint will last as long as the pipe. I also agree that they are too expensive to replace sweated fittings in a copper system except under certain circumstances. A one only repair seems cost effective to me.

When we first styarted SharkBite discussions just about all of the professional plumbers here were against their use as a permanent fix. I think they were finding leakers and decided they were too risky. Now I think they have looked at the why it leaked and decided the guy that put it together was the reason it failed.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 05:06 PM
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I know we're straying from the original post... but he ain't been back anyway...

Last ones that I used were for cutting in a new second floor bath. Due to where the piping was in the crawl, and how easily I could have (would have?) burned the home down, I used the 'slip tees' on the main lines. Then, I measured real careful like and made up a pair of ball valve and drain assemblies in the shop (soldered!). Carried these into the crawl, and simply pushed them into place between the added slip tee, and the coupler on the feeds to the bath. Worked like a charm, no leaks and no fire!
 
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