How To Solder Copper Pipe
You wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and realize that the dripping sound you were going to get around to has finally turned into a trickle, but something else seems to be different. You finish your business bewildered and tired, unable to put your finger on what’s going on, and decide to simply take care of it when you’re a little less woolly-headed. Unfortunately, the next day you notice the spread of a huge wet patch on the wall and realize that a copper pipe inside must have burst.
After you open an access panel, or cut a new hole in that wall, you realize that you’ll have to replace a whole section, as well as create a new irregular shaped piece to fit with whatever the builders were thinking. While a plumber could help, this is definitely something you can tackle on your own, so you get your torch out and decide to start soldering. Here are a few tips that will really assist you along the way.
Soldering two pieces of copper pipe together is not difficult, and if you plan things out correctly, you can be done in no time. You’ll need a few tools and a safe outdoor or ventilated indoor space to work where you can clamp things together and use a flammable gas torch that might put out some carbon monoxide. You’ll require:
•Pipe cutters, which allow you to create a more square joint than a hack saw.
•The fittings and pipe pieces to be welded.
•Flux, a material that chemically cleans the metals to be joined.
•Solder, a metal with a lower melting point that firmly joins two heated metal parts together.
•Flammable gas torch with a flow-adjustable nozzle.
•Fine sandpaper, wire brush and non-flammable cleaning cloth.
•Thick, heat resistant gloves and safety goggles.
•A clamp or helper arm, to hold hot pipes in place while you work.
Get all your pieces measured, cut and cleaned for a strong joint. Use sand paper to clean outside pipe edges to be joined, and use the wire brush inside any fittings, being sure not to rub away the threads. Follow up with a cloth to remove any particles and debris. Apply flux to all the areas to be joined, both on the pipes as well as the fittings, and connect your pieces together. Since the pipe pieces are going to become quite hot, remember to clamp them firmly so that you don’t need to touch them too much during the process.
With all the set up complete, you can begin to apply heat to the new joint. Move the torch around in a slow, even motion, allowing the copper material to heat up evenly. You can note the changes in color that occur as the metal gets hot as a good guide for where you need to move to, and remember, use the very tip of the flame for best results. Once the metal has become hot enough to melt the solder wire, the flux will have melted and the color of the copper itself will become shinier.
At this point, you can carefully apply the end of a long piece of wire to the joint edges and watch as it melts into place. Apply solder to lower joint sections first; because they cool down quicker, you have less time to work. Your soldering is complete when the liquid metal has melted into the joint and encircled the inside completely, beginning to overflow. When the joint is almost completely cooled down, use your cleaning cloth to wipe at the visible silver solder. If it looks shiny, you’ve done things correctly, but if it has a mottled appearance or cracks are evident, gently fan the joint with the torch just until it re-melts, wait and check again. A good soldered copper joint looks clean and uniform.