Tape It Up: Understanding The Role Of Plumber’s Tape In Household Plumbing Leaks

As a new homeowner, you may find that common household plumbing issues like pipe leaks and dripping faucets are mystifying. Dripping faucets are a common problem, but they're more serious than many homeowners realize. With so many different pipe connections and faucets in a house, that's a lot of different areas at risk of a leak. The good news is that you have control over your home's risk of many leaks. Here's a look at your best line of defense against plumbing leaks and how to use it properly.

Understanding Plumber's Tape

Plumber's tape is an effective and affordable way to help keep your pipes protected from various leaks, but it's important to know that it can't fix everything. If you're new to fighting the persistent drip battle, it's important that you know which fittings will benefit from the tape and which ones won't. Flush, tight pipe fittings aren't going to benefit from the tape, because it's going to make the fitting hard to put together, and those fittings usually seal well on their own.

You'll find better results by using the tape on tapered fittings with threads, because the tape helps to create a thicker, tighter seal between the threads. In fact, many plumbers have started using plumber's tape automatically on every threaded joint to serve as a precaution. You can use it on plastic connections, metal pipes and even air fittings. Just remember that it doesn't provide any corrosion protection, so you won't want to use it if the connections are going to be submerged in water.

Choosing The Right Tape

The first time you decide to buy plumber's tape, you may be surprised by how many options there are. It's best to make sure that you understand each of the choices to be sure that you're getting the one that fits your needs. The plumber's tape products designed for residential use are available in several widths, thicknesses and colors.

White plumber's tape is a low-density product, and it's the most common choice for most household water pipe and faucet connections. The white plumber's tape is thin, so you'll need to make sure that you wrap it around the fixture several times to get it to seal properly. You may also find pink plumber's tape in several different widths. The pink tape is a high-density product. If you're dealing with an area where you need some added protection, it's the way to go.

Applying The Tape Correctly

One of the biggest mistakes made by first-time users of plumber's tape is in the application. If you don't get it wrapped correctly, you're going to have leaks. You may even shred the tape when you thread the joint back together. For example, if you wrap plumber's tape around a fixture in the wrong direction, it's going to come loose. This is because the pipe threads will turn against the tape, instead of with it.

Hold the fitting so that you are looking at the top or end of it. Place the end of the plumber's tape over the top of the fitting and then wrap it to the right. Always wrap plumber's tape in this clockwise direction to keep the tape running with the threads. When you wrap it this way, you're going to move from the starting point to the underside of the fitting and then back up to the top.

Hold the tape tight as you wrap. This is important, because it will only coat the threads if it's tight enough. Wrap it several times so that you get a thick, even coating of tape on the threads. Press your fingers down on the tape around the threads to make sure that all of the layers are secured. Cut the tape and press the end against the threads so that it doesn't fray. Remember that plumber's tape has no adhesive on it, so you need to press it together so that it stays.

Reconnect the pipe fixture and then test it to make sure that it's not leaking anymore. If the leak persists, you may need a plumber to help you isolate the problem.

Plumber's tape is available in most consumer home improvement and hardware stores, but it can be overwhelming to understand the proper use and selection. With the tips here, you can tackle those minor household leaks with ease.