In a perfect world, we would not need to solder pipes as they would fit perfectly and never leak. However, if you use copper water plumbing, it is very likely that at some point you will need to cut and solder the pipes. By investing in some affordable equipment and gaining an understanding of basic chemistry, you will be able to complete simple soldering by yourself. This is a job that can be completed by one person. The time investment depends on how much soldering needs to be completed. If there is a lot to be done, having another person to complete some of the steps can make the project go faster.
- Tubing cutter
- Propane or MAPP gas
- Sandpaper or Emery cloth
- Solder (lead or lead free)
- Copper pipe
- Inner attachment
Step 1. Cut the Pipe
Using tubing cutters, determine where the pipe needs to be cut. The tubing cutter should have a blade on the back end that can be used to ream the pipe. This is important because it removes deformations and ensures that water flows evenly.
Step 2. Check Water
Make sure that there is absolutely no water in the pipe. If there is water in the pipe, the soldering will not work.
Step 3. Shine the Pipe
The sandpaper or emory cloth should be used to shine the outside of the pipe. This step is completed when the copper pipe looks rough and less shiny.
Step 4. Clean the Inner Attachment
Using a wire brush, clean the inside of the attachment very well. This is important because the cleaner the surface, the easier it will be for the solder to attach to both the pipe and the attachment.
Step 5. Apply the Flux
Flux is essential for soldering. Essentially, without flux soldering is not possible. The flux should be painted on in a thin layer to both the pipe and the inside of the fitting.
Step 6. Apply Heat to One Side
Using the torch, apply heat to one side of the pipe. The heat can be applied with either a propane or MAPP burner. The difference between the two is that MAPP burners will burn at a higher heat and thus complete the adhesion of the solder.
Step 7. Apply the Solder
Test the temperature of the pipe by applying the solder. If the solder grabs onto the pipe and is pulled towards the flame, it is ready to apply. The reason that the solder moves toward the flame, even if it is against gravity, is due to capillary action. Make sure that the solder has gone all around the pipe. You have two options for solder, lead or lead-free. Naturally, if you are working with plumbing that carries potable water, you will want to use lead-free solder.
Step 8. Wipe Excess Flux
Make sure to wait ten minutes before wiping away the excess flux and solder. If you do not wait till the pipe is cooled, you risk displacing the solder. It is important to remove the flux because it can cause damage to your pipes if it is not removed.
The entire intent of soldering is to get a leak-free connection. Leaks can cause long-term damage to the area around them, waste water, and turn into larger problems. By preparing well and taking your time making sure that the pipes are primed for solder, you can complete many of these soldering tasks without the aid of a plumber.