While working for a new construction plumbing company in 2006, out of ten employees there were only three of us that knew how to solder copper tubing.
The other plumbers never soldered before because they were trained in using plastic tubing; here’s an example: Pvc, Cpvc and pex tubing’s.
Did this make them bad plumbers?
Not by a long shot.They were really good at there job.
As a mater of fact, they showed me how to install pex tubing with out putting a kink in the tubing.
In return I showed them how to solder copper pipe.
The result, one of them used knowledge I taught ’em, while another forgot a few important steps and caused a major leak.
In order to avoid any leaks that could cause damage to your home, welcome to 5 steps to a perfect solder joint.
With copper it is important not to miss a step or there could be disastrous results. Remember these steps and you will be on your way to a perfect solder joint every time.
Here are the 5 steps you need to take to get a Perfect Solder Joint every time.
- Cut the pipe to size
- Clean & debur the pipe
- Clean the inside of the fitting
- flux the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting
- Time 2 solder
Cut the pipe to size: measure the length of pipe that you will need to join your piping system together. Using a tubing cutter, cut your pipe to size (remember to measure twice and cut once).
Clean the pipe: With some sand cloth or paper, sand each end of the pipe until shiny. Make sure the manufactures oils are off of the pipe. Wipe with a cloth to remove any sand or copper residue.
The deburring tool on the end of the tubing cutter, helps in removing the rough edges which could cause leaks down the road. Using your pipe reamer on the tubing cutter, ream the inside edges of the copper tubing removing any burr’s. You want a smooth edge.
Clean your fittings using a tubing brush properly sized for your pipe. To speed the process along I cut the cleaning brush at the top of the handle and insert inside of my drill.
Turn your drill speed on high and clean the inside hub of the fitting. If you see any dark spots inside of the fitting keep cleaning the area until it has been removed.
The dark spot is oil left over from the cutting and forming process at the manufacture. If this oil is left on you will burn your fitting and it will not take the solder.
Flux the pipe and fittings: Using your flux past brush each end of the pipe and fittings. This will ensure a clean and tinned joint.
Time to solder: Whatever size your pipe, that is how much solder you will need to use to sweat your joints together. So, if you are soldering 1″ one inch copper pipe you will need one inch of solder to sweat your joints together.
Using a torch heat your pipe and fitting evenly. Start two inches behind the fitting and slowly heat your pipe and fitting by using a back and forth sweeping motion. Make sure your flame is close enough to cover the entire diameter of the pipe.
When your flame turns green apply the solder to the hub of the fitting, making sure that the solder flows all the way around the hub. Wait!There is one more “Secret” step to a perfect solder joint, that means the difference between an amateurish glob of a mess on your fittings or a professional looking solder joint every time.
Even if this is your first time soldering copper plumbing, I am going to let you in on a Secret step that most plumbers will not tell you about.
Why? Good question and here is the answer.
Most plumbers believe that if there solder joints look better than their colleagues they are a better plumber. Believe me when I tell you, most plumbers are very condescend and competitive and in reality a good looking solder joint takes time and practice.
Secret 6th Step That Will Improve Your Solder Finishes.
After you have filled your hub with solder you’re going to see the solder form and start to dry around the hub and may even overflow and run over the fitting. Here is what you will need to do and have on hand.
You will need a damp cloth towel called a wiping towel or any old rag will do.
You also need a spray bottle filled with water.
While the solder is still in its molten form take your damp cloth and wipe the solder around the hub. At the same time as you wipe your objective is to try and push as much of the solder into the hub of the fitting. Be careful because the solder, fitting and pipe are very hot.
Once you have completed that part of the task, spray a mist of water onto the pipe and fitting. Then wipe the fitting and pipe down again. This last step will remove any excess flux and dirt from your perfect solder joint.
Pretty simple, huh?
Believe it or not it may take an apprentice few months in order to figure out this secret 6th step that will improve your solder finish. Give it a whirl and remember practice makes perfect.
Now you know the 5 steps to a perfect solder joint and the special bonus secret 6th step that will improve your solder finishes. In order to retain this new knowledge and make it your own it is time to take action.