You may think of that dripping faucet as little more than an annoyance. In fact, it can be a much more serious concern. With so many different faucets and pipe connections in your home's plumbing system, that's a lot of space at risk of leaks. Luckily, you can help reduce the risk of leaks in your plumbing joints by adding plumber's tape to the threads of each joint. Here's a look at what plumber's tape can do for your plumbing system and how to use it.
Most Common Uses for Plumber's Tape
Before you pull out the roll of plumber's tape to fix every leak, it's important to recognize the most common uses for it and which fittings it won't help. Flush fittings aren't a good place for plumber's tape. Instead, put a washer in those fittings to prevent leaks. Most tapered, threaded connections are the best places to use it. It creates a tighter seal between the two pieces when you screw the threads into place, reducing the chance of leaks.
Most plumbers have taken to applying this material to every threaded joint as a precaution because it is so effective. You can use it on plastic threaded connections as well as air fittings. Since it doesn't offer much in the way of corrosion prevention, don't use it if the connections themselves will be under water or exposed to chemicals.
Options for Plumber's Tape
When you buy plumber's tape, you need to make sure that you choose the right type for your application. Most residential plumber's tape comes in several different widths, thicknesses and colors. Look for a low-density white plumber's tape for your water connections. This is the standard plumber's tape style. It is thin, and will require that you wrap it several times to have any sealing properties. High-density plumber's tape is pink instead of white. If you have an application where you need added protection, this is a good option.
In order for plumber's tape to be effective, you need to apply it properly. If you don't get it wrapped around the fitting correctly, you may still have leaks and the tape may come loose. One of the most important considerations is the direction that you wrap the tape.
Wrapping it in the wrong direction may cause the tape to come loose when you tighten the pipe threads, because you'll be turning the pipe threads against the tape instead of with it. To avoid this risk, make sure that you wrap the plumber's tape in the right direction and you cover the top of the fitting with the end of the tape. Otherwise, you'll risk having the end fray, which will cause all of the tape to shred and cause leaks.
Hold the fitting so that you are looking at the top of it, or face the end of it if it's still in the wall. Place the end of the tape on the top of the fitting, wrapping to the right. By wrapping in a clockwise direction, you'll move from your starting point, all the way around to the underside of the fitting and back to the top.
Keep the tape as tight as possible as you wrap by pulling gently as you go. It should be tight enough to the fitting that it seems like a coating. Go around the fitting half-dozen times so that you have a thick, even layer of the tape on the fitting. This will ensure a proper seal.
Press down on the tape surface all the way around the fixture once you've finished wrapping it, because this secures both the layers of tape and the ends. Remember that plumber's tape is non-adhesive, so proper application is essential to its function.
Testing the Fixture
Once you screw the fitting back into place, you need to test the fixture to make sure that there are no leaks. Watch it for any drips. If you are concerned that there may be air passing through the connection, place some soapy water on the fitting. Bubbles will start appearing around the joint if there's air coming through. If you still have a leak, you may want to try applying fresh tape, just in case the first application wasn't thick enough. If that doesn't fix it, it is likely time to call a plumber for professional troubleshooting.
Plumber's tape can be found in many hardware and home improvement stores or with places like Academy Mechanical Repair Services, but is a mystery to many new homeowners. With the information presented here, you can tackle some minor pipe leaks with confidence.