If you live in an older home with cast iron pipes, you may discover that one of them has a large hole that is leaking water everywhere. If so, use the following three-step guide to temporarily patch the hole using an old beer can, plumber's putty and hose clamps.
Step 1: Clean And Sand The Area Around The Hole
Before you start making and applying your patch, the area around the hole needs to be cleaned and sanded. This not only helps you visualize the extent of the damage, but it also prepares the surface for the application of the putty. For this step, you need white distilled vinegar, a cleaning rag and 500-grit sandpaper.
The white distilled vinegar helps clean any oil and dirt from the pipe while removing surface rust. Pour enough vinegar on the end of your cleaning rag, and apply it directly to the surface of the pipe. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then wipe the surface using the same rag. Allow it to air dry.
Once the pipe is dry, use the medium-grit sandpaper to smooth the area. Apply firm but gentle pressure when sanding, especially around the opened hole. If the metal is brittle, applying too much pressure could break off pieces and make the hole bigger. Sand enough to remove any excess rust, then go on to the second step.
Step 2: Make A Patch Using An Old Beer Can
After you have cleaned the pipe, make a patch using an old beer can. While a soda pop can may work, beer cans tend to be thicker and can provide a more stable patch. For this step, you will also need a utility knife.
Using the knife, cut the top and bottom off from the can. Then, make one cut down the side of the can, and gently pull it apart. Slide it over the pipe to make sure it is large enough to cover the hole. If not, prepare a second can that can be used to overlap the first to ensure full coverage. Once you have made your patch, go onto the third step.
Step 3: Apply The Patch To The Pipe
Once you have your patch ready, it is time to apply it. For this step, you will also need a tube of plumber's putty, a screwdriver and two hose clamps large enough to encircle the pipe.
Before you put on your patch, look carefully at the pipe to see if there are any pin-size holes around the main hole that may not be covered by your patch. For these tiny holes, use an epoxy putty stick to seal them. Then, let the sealant dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.
To apply your patch, apply a thin layer of plumbers putty around the hole. Then, open the can, and cover the inside with the putty. Position the can over the hole, then place it on the pipe. Apply firm pressure with your hand to adhere the patch to the surface. If you need a second patch, repeat the above, and overlap it with the first can by at least two inches to ensure a secure seal.
Once you have the cans in place, completely remove the screws from the hose clamps. Wrap one around each end of the patch, and replace the screws. Tighten the screws, and let the patch set up for an hour before running water through the pipes. Check for leaks around the patch. If you see any, dry the area, and apply a layer of putty to seal any gaps.
While the above guide will patch the hole in your cast iron pipe, it is meant only as a temporary measure. To have the problem fixed permanently or have the pipes replaced, you may want to contact a plumbing service (like Towers-Murray Plumbing Co Inc) to have them inspect your pipes and discuss any options available to you.