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.
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.