If you love doing the repairs around your house, you will find that repairing copper pipes is inevitable.
Copper is the most common material used when it comes to water pipes, and that is why you need to learn how to solder copper pipes like a pro.
Let’s face it, leaking pipes are as much a part of life as summer and winter. And when the season for doing some DIY plumbing comes, you’d best be ready.
I know you are here to learn how to solder copper pipe, but before we get to that, let’s look at a few reasons that make copper one of the best piping materials.
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5 Advantages Of Copper Pipes
For quite some time, lead pipes fed water into many homes in the country – until it was discovered how poisonous lead can be.
Today, copper and PVC pipes are the most common water pipes in homes. But why copper?
1. Copper is Non-Toxic
Unlike lead, copper is a safe material with known health risks associated with it. The biggest problem with lead pipes is that lead is corrosive and can leak into the water. Lead poisoning can lead to serious health problems and even death.
2. Copper Is Non-Permeable
Copper doesn’t absorb substances with which it comes into contact. This means even if some contaminants leach into the soil, copper pipes will protect your water from being poisoned.
Copper pipes do not suffer easily from corrosion, meaning the chances of contaminants sipping in through a corroded joint a next to none.
3. Copper Pipes Are Durable
Copper pipes handle heat very well without losing their integrity and shape. Copper is also highly corrosion resistant, making it the best material to use for your water pipes.
4. Copper Pipes Are Green
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Not in the sense of color, but copper is one of the greenest materials used in making water pipes. Most of the copper used in the U.S comes from recycled scrap, making copper a very environmentally friendly material.
5. Copper Is Easy To Work With
Because it is softer than iron or lead, copper is easier to work. Besides it’s easy to work with material characteristics, copper is also financially easy to work with as copper water pipes have lower installation costs.
Installation costs are made lower because you can join copper by soldering or brazing.
Which is where your copper soldering skills come in.
If you don’t have any, you’ll soon be a pro by the end of the day as my aim is to teach you how to solder copper pipes – like a pro.
So get your tools ready and let’s get soldering copper like a pro. And if you have no water what tools are required, no problem. I have you covered there too.
How to Solder Copper Pipes – The Tools You’ll Need
Having the right tools for your DIY soldering copper pipe from the very start will save you a lot of time, money, and frustration.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to successfully soldier a leak-free copper pipe.
- Tube cutter
- Propane torch
- Copper fitting
- 120 grit Emery cloth
- Flame protector cloth
- Fire extinguisher (better safe than sorry)
- Fitting Brush
- Striker (if your propane torch doesn’t have an automatic lighter)
With these tools at the ready, you’re good to go, but only if you’ve already gotten: flux and solder. But you don’t just pick the nearest flux or solder on the shelves.
Let’s take a look at some of the types of flux and solder you can use for soldering copper pipes.
The Best Solder and Flux for Soldering Copper Pipes
For basic DIY, there are 2 major types of flux that you can use to solder your copper pipes.
- Paste flux. Most flux pastes are lead-free but you have to make sure before buying. This kind of flux cleans and fluxes simultaneously, ensuring optimal cleanliness at the joint. Paste flux can be used on all materials except aluminum and stainless steel.
- Tinning flux. Tinning flux contains lead-free solder wire powder to clean and pre-tin the pipe surface. It also allows the solder to easily draw into the joint. Tinning flux is best suited for copper pipes with larger diameters.
- The ideal flux for electrical and electronic repairs
- Contains 2 ounce in a "hockey Puck" jar
- Formulated for use with tin/lead and lead-free alloys
As for the solder itself, you also have to be careful about the type you buy. This is because solder is a metal alloy comprised of different elements, and some contain lead.
Be careful to buy a lead-free plumbing soldier to ensure that you don’t contaminate your drinking water.
With these basic tools and materials at the ready, we can move on to the exciting part – how to solder copper pipe like a pro.
- Compatible with all common plumbing solder alloys
- Will not turn Copper Piping green
- Good for large diameter Copper Piping
How To Solder Copper Pipe – The Easy Way
Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to move from how to solder copper pipe to the actual soldering.
Soldering is a very simple process that anyone can do, so don’t worry about not being skilled enough. And if you make a mistake, it’s very easy to correct your mistake.
Let’s get to it.
1. Cut your copper pipe
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Using the tube cutter, cut off the faulty portion of the copper pipe.
Copper is a soft metal and is very easy to cut with a tube cutter. If, however, you are working with a larger pipe that can’t be cut with a tube cutter, you can use a hacksaw.
After cutting the pipe, ream the cut end to get rid of the inside burr. Do this by inserting the reaming attachment on the tube cutter and twisting a full revolution.
Make sure the cut is smooth before proceeding with your project.
2. Clean Your Pipe And Fitting
For your soldering to be effective, you will need to clean your copper pipe and fitting. Use the emery cloth to clean off any dirt or corrosion from the outside of your pipe, making sure that it shines.
Be sure to take extra care to clean the mating areas of the pipe and the fitting, as any dust or dirt present will compromise the integrity of your joint and can lead to a leak in the joint.
Even if your fitting is brand new, you will still need to clean it. Clean the inside of the fitting with a fitting brush, or if the pipe is wide enough, you can wrap an emery cloth on your finger and use it to clean inside your fitting.
Be very careful not to touch any of the surfaces you have cleaned with bare hands as this will only contaminate the surfaces (yes, even if you washed your hands).
Image via Pixabay
3. Flux Your Joint
Once you are certain you have cleaned your copper pipe and fitting, brush an even layer of flux over the mating surfaces (the pipe ends and the insides of the fittings).
After this, push the joint together until the copper tube is well inside the fitting. To ensure the flux is spread well in the fitting, you can slightly twist the pipe.
Wipe off excess flux.
4. Heat The Fitting (Joint)
Now that you have fluxed and put your pieces together, it’s time to fire things up.
Fire up your propane torch and adjust the flame until the blue cone in the center is about 1¼ -inches long. The hottest point of your flame is at the tip of the cone, so make sure to hold the flame so that the tip just touches the fitting.
Heat the joint, making sure to move the cone back and forth so as to heat it evenly. Hold the solder against the fitting on the side opposite the flame – at the point you want to solder. The solder should sizzle and melt in approximately 5-seconds and flow into the joint.
Make sure the soldier is full all-round the joint.
A point to note is that you don’t have to heat the copper pipe directly as the heat from the fitting will be quickly transferred to the copper pipe.
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5. Clean The Joint And Allow To Cool
Wipe away excess solder, making sure to be careful as it is still very hot.
Allow the solder about 45 seconds to cool before applying any pressure. Again, be careful as it is still hot. The solder hardens and forms an airtight seal as it cools.
With that done, you have successfully learned how to solder a copper pipe successfully – a solid, leak-free joint.
When The Pipe Leaks – Do It Yourself
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Next time you have plumbing issues, especially where copper pipes are involved, there’s no need to panic or call a plumber.
Soldering a copper pipe is a very simple procedure that you can do yourself, and actually, enjoy (and save yourself some money too).
As long as you follow this handy guide and take all the necessary precautions, you are good to go.
Featured Image via Pixabay