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Video: How to Solder Copper Pipe

Video: How to Solder Copper Pipe

by Ethan Hagan (email Ethan) | | May 24, 2012 | 12 Comments »

Today’s article comes to you from the OPC workshop where I’ve setup a demonstration for soldering copper pipe. Soldering (a.k.a. sweating) pipe is the typical method for joining two or more pieces of regular copper pipe, and a properly soldered joint can last many, many years. After you master this skill, you’ll be able to tackle simple plumbing jobs around your house like replacing a defective valve or a leaky hose bib (and many more).

For the demonstration, I purchased a short length of M thickness, 1/2″ copper pipe and a couple of fittings, and in the video, I’ll show you the necessary tools and the right steps so that you get a secure, watertight joint.

Permits

In some areas you must be a licensed plumber to perform plumbing work. We are DIYers and not licensed plumbers. This article is for general information. You may wish to consult with a licensed plumber before undertaking plumbing work in your home or business.

In the video I reference Fred’s great article about building a basic plumbers tool kit. That’s what I used for today’s demonstration, and here’s a list of the tools and materials:

  • Propane tank & torch
  • Silver Plumbing Solder
  • Pipe Cleaner (1/2″ and 3/4″ Combo)
  • Plumber’s Flux and Brush
  • Abrasive Cloth (plumber’s sand cloth)

If the video moved too fast for you or you just prefer pictures, Fred has a great step-by-step article with pictures for soldering copper pipe.

Propane vs. Acetylene vs. MAPP

You can use several different types of torches to heat the fitting, and acetylene and MAPP both heat the joint faster than propane. However, for simple DIYer work, propane is just fine, and it’s cheaper. Just remember that you can’t braze lines with a propane torch because it doesn’t burn hot enough.

When Not to Solder Pipe

Depending on the application, soldering is not always the right method to join pieces of copper pipe. For instance, any joints buried underground should be bridged using pack-joint couplings. Brazing, while unnecessary for most residential applications, is an alternative to soldering, and it creates an even stronger joint. You’ll find brazed joints on things like HVAC coolant lines.

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Conversation on This Article

12 Responses to Video: How to Solder Copper Pipe

  • jeff_williams responds...
    May 24th, 2012 9:28 am

    Great tutorial Ethan. I just learned this skill myself not too long ago. A tip I picked up along the way was to only put flux where you want solder to go. I like to have a slight fillet at my joints (mostly brass valves) so I put just a tiny bit of flux on the perpendicular surface where the pipe first enters the valve.

    [Reply]

  • thillman responds...
    May 24th, 2012 11:40 am

    I’ve been eyeing a small torch set at Home Depot, this is giving more confidence that I should start testing it out. Might come in handy one day…

    [Reply]

  • Fargin responds...
    May 24th, 2012 11:56 am

    Nice video. My dad taught me how to do this when I was younger and I’ve gotten pretty good over the years. My biggest problem that I still struggle with is using too much solder. If I don’t pay attention I’m pretty sure I will fill the entire pipe with solder

    [Reply]

  • Icarus responds...
    May 24th, 2012 12:10 pm

    Good post and relevant to me especially. They just replaced the downspouts on our building’s gutters and i’m one of the lucky units who has a downspout routed over my deck. Looks like they soldered two peieces together instead of welding so any bets on when this leaks?

    [Reply]

  • Jake responds...
    May 25th, 2012 5:40 pm

    Another great video. I’ve always heard to only heat one side of the pipe/fitting, and apply the solder to the opposite side. If done correctly the flux will pull the solder to the other side and into the joint. Not sure how if it works any better or worse as I’ve never had to do it (I guess thats a good thing right?). Guess its just another technique.

    [Reply]

  • Rj380 responds...
    May 25th, 2012 5:43 pm

    excellent post!

    [Reply]

  • Tim Carr responds...
    June 19th, 2012 11:43 am

    So even if I’m doing work on my own property, I need to be a plumber? Hmm.

    [Reply]

  • reubencollins responds...
    June 22nd, 2012 12:37 pm

    Great tutorial. I really need to learn how to do this stuff.

    [Reply]

  • HANDYMAN51 responds...
    July 4th, 2012 9:19 pm

    Very good demonstration. Just had to deal with some pin- hole leaks creating water spots on our ceiling tile. I used ” Shark Bite” fittings, and was very pleased with them once I realized you need to push the copper pipe down into them quite firmly.

    [Reply]

  • Joe M responds...
    June 17th, 2014 10:52 am

    I have a tip that may help when you are soldering copper. A lot of people will focus the heat just on the fitting. This sometimes will weaken the fitting with too much heat and discolor it. The pipe itself is a little thicker than the fitting (type L & K) You should first focus the heat on the copper pipe all around and just ahead of the fitting and then move the heat to the fitting itself. Solder follows the heat and this makes for a great weld every time. This especially is important if you are using mapp gas as it burns much hotter.

    [Reply]

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