Suppose I completely break a hot or cold water PVC pipe under a sink.

How can I quickly stop/minimize the flow while I go turn off the water flow, at the pump?

Last time something like this happened, I wrapped it in a cloth quickly before running down to the water switch. Lots of water still came out; not a success.

  • Maybe the folks in Home Improvement could give even better answers.
    – Carl
    Apr 18, 2015 at 15:06
  • 2
    Your writing "last time something like this happened" makes me think that maybe you have a bigger problem? :)
    – user
    Apr 18, 2015 at 19:35
  • 1
    Scream as loud as you can for assistance :)
    – unbindall
    Apr 19, 2015 at 19:16

7 Answers 7


You are under the sink, so the following things should be readily available:

  • bucket or large container
  • towels
  • pieces of plastic (old wrappers, garbage-bag, etc.)

Let me first say; do this as quickly as possible. It doesn't have to be a solid fix, and you are gonna have some spillage. The main reason for doing this is to make sure the room doesn't have 10cm of water in it before you had the chance to turn of the water:

  1. Put the bucket (or other large container) under the broken pipe.
  2. Take the piece of plastic (preferably a garbage-bag) and hold it over the hole in the pipe.
  3. Use the towels to wrap around the plastic around the pipe (you can tie them in a knot to keep everything in place).
  4. If you have pieces of string available, tie one tightly around the pipe over the towel above the break, and one below the break.
  5. Run like hell for your main shutoff-valve !
  • The water source comes from the basement, so the water would actually be flowing upwards.
    – J. Musser
    Dec 12, 2014 at 13:10
  • It doesn't really matter in which direction the water flows, right? The hole is in the pipe, at the ends of the pipe should be a termination like a faucet or the distributor. You put the bucket under the pipe because when you tie the hole off, the water which is seeping through will use gravity to determine its direction ;) Dec 12, 2014 at 13:13
  • That work I guess if the pipe isn't entirely snapped, but won't the water kind of run down the sides of the pipe? How do I get it into the bucket?
    – J. Musser
    Dec 12, 2014 at 13:15
  • If this were just a crack in the pipe(not a complete break) that feeds water to a faucet, and not a drain pipe, then I would also open the faucet wide open. This will reduce water pressure at the crack and lower the flow rate.
    – AaronLS
    Apr 29, 2015 at 22:47

If the pipe is completely broken, crimp the end over or bend the pipe. I put a spade thru an underground water pipe in the garden many years ago and it shot a fountain of water 30 feet (9 metre) into the air.... so I called the water utility - a chap turned up and hit the pipe with a hammer until it stopped. Good lesson

  • Doesn't work so well on pvc, but good on metals
    – J. Musser
    Mar 8, 2015 at 21:54

Rather than fix the problem why not prevent it? Close the main valve while working on such a critical pipe. You wouldn't want to get the water to come into contact with electrical sockets and the like, would you?

Nobody in your house should miss the water for those 15 minutes you're working on the pipes. If it's extensive maintenance then you and your family can easily survive a few hours with just a few buckets and/or jerry cans of water and a bit of planning.


You say "pump" so I'm going to assume you've got a well with a submersible pump (or one of the old above ground pumps, but they're rare these days), rather than city water. If you have city water, find the main shutoff valve (usually near the water meter in the basement, I think).

Find the circuit breaker on your power panel that controls the pump and turn it off before working on the water. Ideally, there will be markings on each of the breakers describing (cryptically) what they control. After you're finished, have a helper turn it on and stay by the switch while you inspect for leaks.

If, for some reason, you really don't want to turn it off while you're working on it, at least locate it so you can run and turn it off before it causes expensive flood damage.

If you have city water, find the main shutoff valve (usually near the water meter in the basement, I think), and turn it off and on as with the circuit breaker.

  • Here is a good place to suggest that before you even think about working on your pipery, find out where the stop tap is and make sure it's not rusted up.
    – RedSonja
    Apr 12, 2016 at 13:05

Install an electrical water valve on the water main coming into your home with a remote switch located some were in your living space, preferably centrally located. If you get a break in line just hit switch and it will shut water off. Now the benefit of doing this is that you can install water sensors in area of your home that might have a line break and cause serious water damage. These sensors will detect leak and will cause electrical water valve to shut off. This comes in handy when you are away. This is a simple installation and you can use low voltage to operate. Now the best water valve to use is a electrical latching water valve, that way if you lose your electrical the water valve will stay close. Better yet use a Hunter Sprinkler NODE100VALVE NODE Single Station Controller with DC Latching Solenoid and PGV-101G valve operate with a 9 volt battery. This is a water sprinkler valve, can easily be modified for as a water line break shut off if a breaks happens. Check it out. good luck


You can't stop the flow. Every second you spend fiddling with the pipe is a second the main valve is still open.

Ok, I kinda exaggerated, but in situations like that it's either obvious what you can do (eg divert the flow to the nearby bathtub) or there is no other way than running for the valve.


Put the stopper in the sink.

enter image description here

This will block the flow of water completely. If you don't have a stopper, use your T-shirt or any other clothes you have on you. While this will not stop the water completely, it will drastically reduce its flow. Also, turn off the faucet.

If you're talking about the flow pipe into the faucet, then wrap the pipe with duct tape if you have any.

  • 1
    That would work on a crack, maybe.
    – J. Musser
    Dec 10, 2014 at 22:24
  • 9
    By "water pipe", I assumed the author was asking about the incoming pipes that are under pressure and spray everywhere when broken. The plug would not work in that much more frantic situation. Dec 10, 2014 at 23:08
  • @RobertCartaino I've never seen that PVC was used for the incoming water pipes. In what country could that be? The pressure is usually at 5 bar.
    – ott--
    Apr 9, 2016 at 19:52

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