How to repair a drilled water pipe after accidentally cutting into it

Domestic copper water pipe will often require repair after been acidentally drilled into during DIY or home improvement projects
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One of the most frequent types of repair which we are contacted about is what to do when you have accidentally drilled through a water pipe.

The first thing to realise is that it happens far more often than you might think, partly because it is so easy to do. Pipes in our homes are well hidden and often found in unexpected places; you can take all the precautions in the world to avoid cutting into one, but even that is sometimes not enough.

If disaster has just struck, then it is important not to panic. By staying calm and following the following steps, you can minimise the damage caused by leaking water and even repair the burst pipe yourself.

Turn off the water supply

Preventing water escaping from the hole you have drilled into the pipe is the number one priority. Find your stopcock and turn off the mains supply which will stop water from flowing into the property.

In most houses, the stopcock is found under the kitchen sink and the valve is turned clockwise to shut off the water supply. Some properties may find their stopcock located outside, in which case it is normally located underneath a metal plate which will have a large W or the word water on it.

Do not worry if you cannot turn your stopcock off because it has rusted up, is on too tight or is inaccessible. Whilst it is preferable to turn the mains off to prevent water damage, it is still possible to carry out a live leak pipe repair when flow cannot be isolated.

Access the drilled water pipe requiring repair

To inspect the level of damage caused to the drilled water pipe, you need to gain access to it. This might involve taking up floorboards if the pipe was breached whilst drilling down or removing sections of drywall if it is hidden behind a wall.

Always be especially careful when accessing damaged pipework. One breach in the system is bad enough; adding a second whilst trying to inspect the first can make things a lot worse!

Assess the damage caused to the water pipe

Once you have accessed the pipe, you can carry out an assessment of the damage. This informs the steps you take next when it comes to a repair or replacement.

If the pipe is suffering from a pinhole leak, then this should be a simple repair which can be made using an epoxy putty and a pipe repair bandage. A longitudinal split which is several inches in length may require a pipe repair tape to cover the damaged area.

You will also be able to assess what material the pipe is made from. Repairing a copper pipe can involve different techniques – such as soldering – compared to repairing a PVC plastic pipe.

Decide if you can repair the drilled water pipe yourself

Most leaking domestic pipes can be fixed without the services of a plumber. A pipe repair kit contains all the materials needed to fix bursts and leaks in less than 30 minutes by following a simple set of instructions provided.

It is as easy as sealing the leak with an epoxy putty or waterproof self-fusing repair tape and then overwrapping with a composite bandage which sets rock-hard when activated with water, providing an impact-resistant layer over the initial repair.

Using a pipe repair kit can save both time and money compared to hiring a professional. The burst pipe can be fixed in a fraction of the time you could be waiting for a plumber to look at the problem.

Kits are available from as little as £16 depending on the size of pipe being fixed. That is a bargain compared to the £40 an hour average cost of a plumber in the United Kingdom in 2020 – and some will apply an emergency call out charge on top if you need is desperate.

If you cannot repair the problem yourself, call a plumber

Should the problem appear too complex to repair yourself or you suspect that the damage is so grave a replacement might be needed, then you need to find a reputable plumber to carry out the work for you.

Remember to carry out thorough checks on their credentials beforehand. The last thing you want is for a substandard repair to be performed on pipework which has already suffered from accidental damage.

Do not ignore the problem

The one course of action you should never take is to ignore the problem. You may discover that the pipe which has been drilled into is only suffering from a minor pinhole and losing minimal amounts of water which you think are not likely to cause any immediate damage.

Even if this is the case, it is vital that you carry out a repair. Small pinholes can turn into bigger cracks and water damage can wreak serious havoc on the structural integrity of buildings and furnishings inside.

Worst of all, not repairing a leaking pipe can invalidate your insurance. If you were to find yourself needing to submit a claim for water damage and your provider discovers you knew about a leak which you did nothing about, then they will often refuse to pay out.

Fixing a drilled water pipe as soon as possible prevents long-term problems and protects your home and property going forward.

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