Plumbing with copper

Started by glenn-k, January 26, 2005, 12:47:12 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic.


I have moved up to Aquapex for my water plumbing due to it's ease of use and speed of installation, however occasionally I still need to to solder up a few joints or sometimes just want to use copper.

Copper is relatively cheap and easy to work with if you just take care to do things right.  Anyone can do it!  Wear safety glasses of course for all operations.

Copper can be cut with a saw or tubing cutter.  Clean off burrs with a file, knife or deburring tool to prevent fit-up problems.

Copper exposed to air gets an oxide coating on the outside that will not take solder.  If it is fresh from the store a good flux might take it off but better to be sure by cleaning it with some sandpaper, emery cloth or a wire brush.  There are special wire brushes that fit the pipe to make cleaning pretty easy.  Clean the entire area  that is to be soldered.  Take a small brush or acid brush and put flux over the entire cleaned area.  The flux will keep the heat of the torch from immediately oxidizing the copper and preventing the solder from flowing and sticking to the copper again.  

There are many different types of fluxes.  Most will be a paste and some will be a liquid.  I like the tinning fluxes which tin the copper as the flux and pipe heats preventing oxidation.  Put the flux coated pipe and fittings together before you heat them.  Light your torch and apply heat to the joint being careful not to set the house on fire. Do not apply heat directly to the solder.   As you heat the flux will begin to heat and flow.  Touch the solder to the edge of the joint (solid wire plumbing solder without lead -) the solder will soon begin to flow as the joint comes up to proper temperature.  The copper pipe will transfer the heat to the solder.  Capillary action will pull the solder into the joint whether it is right side up or upside down if it has been cleaned and fluxed properly.  Keeping the heat at just a bit above flowing makes it easier to control the solder.  Overheat it especially without enough flux and you may have to start over.  Heating the solder rather than the pipe will only flow the solder over the joint making a cold solder joint that will leak.  Inspect the area all around the joint.  If solder has not flowed completely around the connection, reheat it to melting temperature on the unfilled area especially and add a little solder if necessary.  Allow the joint to cool on its own.  

A little bottled propane torch is sufficient,  Mapp gas is probably a little better and I like to use my oxy-acetylene torch turned pretty low to make it quick.