How to Solder Copper Pipe

Learn how to Solder

Learning how to solder cooper pipes is one of the first things you learn in plumbing school. You need to find you own soldering techniques, the more you do it the more you get feel for it. You will eventually find your groove and be good at soldering.

Soldering or sweating involves using a heart source preferable propane torch not a soldering iron to heat the pieces of copper you would like to solder, solder then gets pulled into the fitting bay what is known as “capillary action”. Capillary action is just the physical action of the solder getting sucked into the fitting. A soldered joint will last for years to come.

To ensure a proper soldered joint is made you will want to be sure to clean the fittings and pipe you are going to solder. Then you dry fit each piece to make sure that everything is plumb and fit properly. Then you simply grab a old rag to use to wipe and you are good to go.

Be sure to have all the proper soldering equipment to complete the job. Be sure you have all the fittings and all the proper pipe you will be using.

Cutting Copper Pipe

Use copper cutters to cut your pieces of pipe. Make a mark on the pipe where you want to make your cut. Put copper cutters over the cut line and tighten the cutters. Do not clamp the cutters down to hard because it will be harder to turn the cutters around the pipe. Once you have clamped the pipe with the cutters you can start to spin the cutters around clamping the cutters more as you go until the pipe is cut. Use the reamer on the copper cutters to ream out the end of the copper pipe you just cut.

Use emery cloth or sand cloth to clean the ends of the copper pipe where you are going to solder, until it looks clean. ( you will be able to see where you cleaned) What this does is removes dirt and grease that creates oxidization. Being sure that you properly cleaned your pipe and fittings will ensure a leak free joint.

Using a wire brush the proper size, clean out each fitting just like the pipe before soldering. Then fit everything together to make sure that all your cut pieces are correct and that you cleaned enough of the ends of the pipe to solder.

Now take everything a part and use soldering flux on the ends where you cleaned the pipe and on the inside of each fitting. Only use a thin layer of flux because the solder will naturally go where the solder paste is and you don’t want to make a mess. Then fit everything back together again.

It’s GO time!

Heat the pipe and fitting equally, keep in mind that where the pipe is in the fitting will take more heat, but not too much. Be sure to keep the heat moving; do not let it stay in one spot for too long, you will cook the fitting. After about 8-1o seconds your fitting and pipe should be hot enough to start putting solder in your fitting. If the solder does not melt on contact apply more heat. When the solder starts to drip out of the fitting then you have put enough solder in the joint and move on to the next one. A rule of thumb to remember is if using ½ pipe, you should only use about 1/2 inch of lead free solder. Sometimes it takes more but this is just to give you an idea on how much solder to use. Just to make it look pretty and professional wipe the joint after you have soldered it. Don’t wipe the joint too early, it will get messy. I usually wait until it’s not shiny anymore. It will also be very hot. If you can, make a temporary soldering station, where you can do as much soldering on the ground before tying it in. Also be careful not to get flux paste near or in your eyes it will burn.

There are also different solder types, the soldering mentioned is lead free soldering, you do not want to use lead solder. Lead soldering is done on drainage lines only and not permitted on potable water lines.

Removing Solder

If wanting to know how to desolder, or un-sweat your fittings, just heat up the fitting as normal and then take two sets of pliers and twist and pull. So hope you enjoyed these soldering tips and now I hope you know how to solder copper pipe.