Plumbing with copper pipes is very challenging when you don’t know where to begin. I can help you out with what I have learned through years of experience. I worked with a fellow carpenter years ago that always said “everybody has the ability, but not everybody has the experience”. That is why I am glad to help people get to the end result sooner by sharing my experiences.
If you are planning on doing some plumbing with copper take time to check out these points and your project will go quicker and easier, with professional results.
Always plan your project before diving into it. You need to make sure you have all supplies needed you don’t want to get half way done and be missing some parts. Measure your pipes and cut and prefit the pipes before you start sweating your pipes.
Also set up a work station if you are sweating more than a couple joints. I like to use 2 sawhorses set up with a piece of plywood on top to give me a nice surface to work on and lay my parts on top.
When I remodel a kitchen I will get all my pipes cut and measured and sweat them together outside or in a garage and then all I have to do is sweat 2 joints in the sink base. If you are working on a kitchen or bathroom it is easier to sweat your pipes before the counter tops are in place.
If you have to sweat pipes near a finished surface place a piece of flashing or thin plywood in between your flame and the finished surface. Also have a spray bottle handy with water in it, this you can use to cool down the pipes or to soak any wood in the area.
After your pipes are prefit mark them with a marker drawing a straight line or two across the joints. This is helpful with any plumbing because you will put your pipes back together the way you have fitted them.
You need to make sure your pipes are clean in the area that will get sweated together. This can be done with a wire brush cleaner made for this purpose or plumbers sandpaper. The brush is very handy for cleaning the inside of fittings. Cleaning makes the surface fresh and gives the solder little microscopic grooves to melt into.
After cleaning the end of the pipe don’t touch them even the oil of your fingers will mess with you getting your pipes sweated.
Flux is necessary to help the soldering process. One of the problems to a good solder joint are impurities at the site of the joint, for example, dirt, oil or oxidation. Fluxes also act as a wetting agent in the soldering process, reducing the surface tension of the solder and causing it to flow between the pieces more easily.
If you are going to do a lot of sweating of pipes get a tank and self lighting torch. These torches will be handy because when you let your fingure off the button the flame goes out. This is better than the other type that is always lit and you have to be careful where you set it down.
I have found mapp gas works better than propane. Mapp gets the pipes hotter quicker making your job easier.
Buy solder that has no lead in it for your health. When you buy your parts and get your supplies together purchase the right kind of solder for plumbing.
Sweating pipes can be quite easy if the above steps are followed cleaning is very important and then don’t forget the flux and then it is time for the heat.
A half inch pipe joint should use about 1″ of solder, if your pipe is horizontal use enough till it drips out. Watch where you are standing so the molten solder does not drip on you, believe me it hurts. It is always best to put the heat on the coupling you want the solder to run into, the heat will help draw the solder into the joint.
If your sweating existing pipes make sure all water is out of the line. I always turn the main water valve off and open a faucet on a lower level. I once sweated a copper line that was in the concrete slab so I turned off the water and used my vacuum to blow the water out of the lines.
Remember to always plan ahead and you can Do It Yourself.