Oh, Ian. What have you done?

At quarter to eight in the morning I’ve wrenched my back, soaked my boots, worked up a muck sweat that keeps fogging my glasses, lost my temper at my dog, gotten a jackhammer chisel so wedged between concrete and rebar I thought I might need to buy Neighbor S a new one … and provisionally succeeded in corking the leak after almost two weeks.

There were some monumental water leaks one house in Michigan used to spring that I’ve probably edited out of my memory, so this might not be the most difficult-to-get-to leak I’ve ever encountered. But it’s the hardest I remember.

And I have no idea what the guy who installed this particular pipe was thinking at the time. Ian and I built this basic structure together but he alone was responsible for plumbing and electricity – and twelve years ago he was no more a plumber or electrician than I was.

So anyway: This morning I finally succeeded in breaking a big-enough-for-a-fist hole in the far side of the wall, and …Well, ma’am, I found your problem…

This is the only external use of copper I’ve found at Ian’s Cave and it came as a complete surprise. I don’t currently have any way to permanently fix it. That freeze split has obviously been there at least five months, maybe years. The broken fitting might be why the leak became evident or it might be a jackhammer casualty. Don’t know.

What I did know was…

… I wasn’t expecting copper. I was prepared to cork up a leaking flexible pipe. If it had turned out to be PVC, I could have dealt with that. But even if I had a pipe cap there’s no way I could braze one onto a copper pipe way back in that hole. While water’s pouring out. And no, the plumbers who performed last year’s upgrade did not see fit to replace the main shut-off valve they removed in the process.

There was no evident way to fix this the right way. Whatever that might be. So…I went mountain man.

Baton (yes, I know) a little piece of firewood to a square cross section and then whittle it to a long gradual point, then jam it in the pipe and twist until water stops pissing out.


And this is the mess I have to deal with today…

It’s a disaster area – but it’s not currently leaking. So I have that going for me while I figure out how to do a permanent fix. Suggestions? And nobody say “just braze a cap on it.”

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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23 Responses to Oh, Ian. What have you done?

  1. Ben says:

    That problem cries out for a simple device called a “test plug”. It a rubber plug that you jam in the pipe and then tighten with a screw. Possibly available at Ace hardware.

  2. Bill T says:

    Is that a copper pipe that’s left in the wall? Is so maybe one of these?

  3. Joel says:

    That might do it, Ben. I’ll need to pull out my wooden plug and determine the ID of the pipe, but that’s no thing. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the hardware store has one: I’m due a little luck.

  4. Titan Mk6B says:

    Use a Sharkbite fitting. It is sized for the OD of the pipe. Not the ID.

    The advertise that it will work on any type of pipe, copper included. My guess is that you are looking at 1/2 in pipe.

  5. coloradohermit says:

    I’m glad to hear from you! It was getting worrisome, no posts in several days, that the jackhammer might have gotten you.

  6. Joel says:

    I’m fine, just didn’t have anything to say. Thanks, though. 🙂

  7. czechsix says:

    Personally, I’d start digging back until I found the entry point into the wall and fix it from that entrance. Redesign however it’s coming in, make sure the line is free of masonry or cement. Seeing how that was done I’d bet there will be some problems in the future, you’re halfway in now might as well deal with the entire issue.

  8. winston smith says:

    + another on a properly sized Sharkbite. I (or friends) have had the occasion to use them on a handful of problems from home to rv leaks and they simply work. worth 10x their cost imo.

  9. jed says:

    Batoning a knife? Yeah, it’s a real tale of froe.

    Difficult to recommend anything other than the Sharkbite already mentioned, without actually seeing the thing in person. My only concern would be the condition of the outside surface of the pipe, and that end looks a bit chowdered up. I’ve used Sharkbites on clean deburred pipe, and they’re fine.

    Of course, I’m wondering where the other end of that pipe is, and I’ll just assume there’s no way to get to it that’ll make a repair any easier.

  10. Steve Walton says:

    If you use the sharkbite, make damn sure to clean the pipe off well. I would go so far as a light sanding with fine sandpaper. Any cement sticking to it will ruin the seal.

  11. bobbookworm says:

    Your looking at a frost free sill cock. No water comes out of the side split unless the faucet is turned on because there is a long shaft going all the way back to the brass at the back end near the damaged fitting that has the rubber shut off washer on it. Supposed to keep it from freezing up and splitting. Maybe a hose got left on it so it couldn’t drain?? Who knows.
    The back fitting was probably damaged taking it out.
    The suggestion for sharkbites is a good one if you can get to the copper pipe to clean it up. Copper needs to be smooth for a watertight fit.

  12. Terrapod says:

    I think Joel mentioned that the outside of the wall is under several feet of dirt. I too would prefer to fix it right but that is going to involve a lot of digging and finding where it goes to replace a longer section. The expansion plug is the fastest temporary fix.

    Why it split is the question if it is underground. Did not think AZ highlands had more than 24″ ground freeze depth.

    Copper pipe underground in Michigan has to be at least 4 feet down, deeper is safer, We also use heavy wall, not the stuff you run indoors.

  13. Steve Walton says:

    Bobbookworm, yes it is a frost-free sillcock, but it will hold water in the outer part if it wasn’t installed at a slight angle to let it drain. My guess, given everything else I see, that that is the case here. It might even have been sloped the wrong way.

  14. Ro says:

    As others have said get a sharkbite fitting. Clean it up well first and ensure you deburr it.

  15. Terrapod says:

    Looking closely at the freeze split, that was not your chisel, it burst outward, water/ice. I replaced one at my son’s house last spring, exact same image. Somehow water must have remained inside the pipe past the shutoff at the base (that wide nut at the far end from the faucet.

    There is room in there to get a MAPP torch in to solder a pipe tp threaded end then install a new one. Get a good quality one and make sure there is a sign that says – drain all water out of spigot after closing.

    The $100 question is how cold does it get in that corner in winter? If drained it should be fine but still, if area can be kept above freezing a plus.

  16. Michael says:

    Marine underwater cure epoxy putty. Stuff a wad of it in the pipe.

  17. Going back into the 80s memory bank, so this knowledge might be a bit corrupted. 🙂 I used to work at a plumbing supply house, but it’s been a while.

    Frost-proof sillcocks can be either 1/2″ ID (5/8″ OD) or 3/4″ ID (7/8″ OD). If you’re going to make a trip for parts, get parts for both.

    Advice on making sure the end of the pipe is clean and smooth is on target. You might be able to do it with brass compression fittings, say a copper to MIP adapter and a cap. Use teflon tape on the threads. Big problem with this solution is getting wrenches into that space. Sharkbite may work, but I wouldn’t expect it to be permanent with that pipe unless you get lucky. Of course, you could clean up the end, put the Sharkbite on and see what happens. Get a removal tool in case it fails. (you won’t get it off without one. Ask me how I know that. 🙁 If it holds, maybe stuff the area with fiberglass and seal the outside with spray foam for the winter and see if it survives. But I’d never stuff concrete in there again. Concrete in contact with copper will corrode the copper-probably what happened here.

    No matter what, I’d plan on this being a short term fix, with a “permanent” (nothing is permanent about plumbing) when Ian can get in some heavy equipment.. PITA I know, but do you want to be doing this in a few more years when it’s even harder on you?

  18. Mark Matis says:

    McMaster has Sharkbite fittings since your local shop probably does not:

  19. Desert Rat says:

    I don’t know how much water flow you are dealing with, but an old trick I’ve used is to shove a plug of bread up into the pipe. It will stop a small trickle long enough to solder a cap or fitting on the pipe. If you put a fitting on, the bread will eventually dissolve and wash away. Good luck amigo!

  20. boynsea says:

    A Sharkbite pipe cap is the answer, with a caveat. Or two. If you cap this pipe off, will it freeze and burst again? Maybe use a Sharkbite elbow to being the pipe out to another sillcock so you can drain the line for winter?

    Sharkbite fittings need a round pipe with no burrs at the end, there’s an o’ring inside the fitting that makes the seal. Also, you need the pipe to be clean and smooth for the o’ring, I do not recommend sanding the pipe as if you were going to solder it.
    \I’ve used a lot of the Sharkbite stuff: greatest thing since indoor toilets. Also PEX piping is great stuff.

  21. james paul says:

    a fix that i have used is to wrap the pipe at the split with copper wire and then fill the copper wire with lead so the pipe will be water

  22. Mike says:

    What a mess. I see there are plenty of good suggestions, so all I’ll add is good luck to you. 👍

To the stake with the heretic!