Getting the Job Done When the Water’s Still Flowing

Ideally the water supply is shut off before you begin a repair, but that’s not always an option on the job. Here are some tips on handling active waterlines.
Getting the Job Done When the Water’s Still Flowing
Rob Trefz

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Repairing a waterline that cannot be shut off is common practice for experienced professionals. But for those just entering the field, this may be a challenge.

Of course, whenever possible, one would shut off the water supply, but this is not always feasible or practical in every situation. When does it make sense to keep the water on? What do I do with the water once the line is cut? How can I get the repair done as quickly as possible?

Here are tips on how to make active waterline repairs a little less intimidating for new professionals.

Assessing the Situation

There are several factors that can cause a situation where you need to work on a line without shutting off the water supply. The most common one is when the shut-off valve will not close properly. Many times the seals go bad in older valves and water will leak past a closed valve. In some cases the valves are inaccessible or in restricted areas. Other times, the valves are accessible, but it is not practical to shut off the water. For example, if a repair is required on a water main in a hotel, shutting off the water for an extended period of time is a major problem. A shutdown could last several hours as it will take time to drain the lines and make the repair. This will be a major disruption to the hotel guests and employees, and can result in a significant revenue loss for the hotel if guests need to be rebooked at another location. 

Plan Ahead

Once you’ve made the decision to complete the job without shutting off the water, it’s important to make a plan. You will need to determine where the water will go once the pipe is cut and the job is being completed. Large pipes will put out a significant volume of water and this needs to be considered carefully or substantial property damage can occur. For a small line, a bucket or a garbage can to catch the water may be enough. But for a large-diameter line, multiple garbage cans or a way to divert the water to a safe location may be necessary. 

The Right Tools Can Make All the Difference

Making sure you have the appropriate tools to complete the job will be the difference between a successful, profitable job and a headache. If you need to install a branch line, a hot tap tool, such as the RIDGID RT34422, can be used to install a branch line onto a hot line. These tools work on steel, cast iron, ductile iron and plastic pipe. The main advantage is that you can keep the line pressurized and, if used properly, no water will leak out of the system. Hot tap tools can also be used on steam, air, and natural gas lines.

If repairing a leak, replacing a section of pipe, or replacing a valve with the water still on, press technology is the way to go. Press tools can join a variety of materials. For example, RIDGID press tools can be used on copper tubing, stainless steel tubing and pipe, black steel pipe, multiple types of PEX tubing, and multilayer tubing.

Remember: Time is Money

If water is trickling past a valve, or even gushing through, pressing tools can be the ideal solution to minimize downtime. Press technology eliminates the need for the old trick of using bread crumbs to stop the water flow. If water is trickling through the line, oftentimes a contractor can cut into the line, press on the new section of pipe or tubing, and not even worry about the small amount of water that drips onto the floor or into a bucket. If there is a high volume of water flowing through the line, or it is necessary to get it shut off quickly, contractors will get a bucket or garbage can to catch the water, cut into the existing line, slide on a valve in the open position, press on the new valve, and then shut off the valve to stop the water. This can be done very quickly which minimizes water loss and keeps the water supply on.

Another important benefit of press technology is that there is no flame, and therefore no hot work permits required. Many times press technology is the only choice if working in a hospital, school, or another public building where the water cannot be turned off, or flames are not permitted. This can also be useful in factories and production facilities where unexpected shutdowns can be very costly. Keeping a plant up and running can save thousands of dollars by reducing or eliminating downtime. The old saying of “time is money” is truer now than ever before. Saving precious minutes, or oftentimes hours, can make the difference between a profitable job and a loss. 

About the Author
Rob Trefz is director of business development and marketing at RIDGID, a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 140 countries. Learn more at


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