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CopperPipeJoint-450.jpg

I know how to do some projects in theory — sweating copper-pipe joints, for instance — that I’ve never needed to test my skill at until I moved into a new house with a missing toilet and sink. Replacing the valves for the sink’s hot and cold inlets went like a dream, but when I got to the third inlet valve, the one for the toilet, I had to try it about ten times before I got it to work correctly. I have no idea what I was doing wrong, but here’s my tip: if you can’t seem to get the joint right, try some solder paste, and use a bunch.

My toilet works now, and it doesn’t leak. It might be a sissy way out, but it cost less than $10 — and it let me turn the water on for good.

Photo posted on Flickr by tanais.

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15 Responses to Solder-It Revisited

  1. jc says:

    So what is it that’s s/he’s got installed there? It’s obviously non-American, based on the outlets. Is that a cut-off valve and a flowmeter of some kind?

  2. BJN says:

    I don’t see a soldered joint in the photo, lots of fittings, unions and tape. Que?

  3. Jason says:

    Soldering is pretty easy. Sand, clean, dry, flux, heat, solder. Miss a step, it will leak. As an alternative, Sharkbite fittings are really easy to use. You’ll still need to clean, and possibly sand in some cases.

  4. Brice says:

    New lead free solder is pretty temperature sensitive. It is possible, especially for novices to over heat the joint.

  5. Jim K. says:

    @JC

    If you look closely you’ll see that it’s a Liff UV water purification system. Outlets look UK to me.

  6. Rob says:

    Most of those fittings used appear to be Sharkbite or simliar. However I am somewhat surprised that someone who could bend that diameter copper at that angle without kinking it is unable to solder.

    Also is that a bowl underneath? Maybe those non-solder fittings aren’t as great as the companies who make them would like you to believe. They certainly are expensive at ~$10 / fitting. I imagine using them in some tight spots where soldering could be more dangerous but this picture is a bit silly to me.

  7. J.R. Bluett says:

    Hmmm… it appears that my search on Flickr, and cursory glance for what I thought would be a suitable picture, has utterly failed. Next time, I save the post till I can take a picture of the project I’m working on, like this one:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/26415814@N08/2755279846/in/set-72157606679583929/

  8. Rob says:

    The picture from your photostream shows it all and it looks like you were able to make it work although those types of drywall patches always drive me crazy (getting them to look just right).

    By the looks of it you have several projects ahead of you. At least you have some good excuses to buy new tools. Best of luck

  9. Barri says:

    The problem with sweat joints is like someone has already said. Heat that copper a little to much and the solder will not take to the pipe. Also a little trick for people who have problems with water in a pipe your trying to solder is to use a bit of bread and push it up into the pipe, but not to much that it will get stuck just enougth so that it soaks up the water. The pipe will be 100x easier to solder and the bread will break down as soon as you turn water back on. I been plumbing for over 10 years now and at times wish i had never got into the trade. JP speedfit is a very good push fit fitting and i would have to say prob the best. But you cant get them in the US which i find very strange seeings as they are used i almost every timber frame building in the UK!

  10. Rob says:

    While not a plumber by trade I have done a pretty good amount of soldering. I prefer to use tinning flux because it contains a tiny amount of solder and cleans the surface of pipes, fluxes and tins. When you see the flux start to tin (turn the color of solder) you know that it’s ready to flow, apply solder, remove heat, wipe joint to clean it. If you do not wipe your joints with a rag once they have started to cool that extra flux will start to corrode the pipe sooner than it would otherwise.

    And I checked the photostream that the original picture on this post was taken from. Clearly the guy who did that has some skills and it appears as if this setup is part of a UV filtering system — only a small part of the complete plumbing re-do he has done on his house.

    And the tip to use bread is a good one. Saved my butt more than once on joints where I couldn’t get it hot enough or couldn’t get all of the extra water out of the pipes. Just remember to remove the aerator from your downstream faucets so the little pieces of bread, solder, and flux don’t jam it up.

  11. fred says:

    Sweating takes some practice and as more than one person noted a bit of temperature control. We use mostly air-acetylene torches, pay attention to cleaniing the joints until bright with emery cloth / wire brushes and applying flux. I can’t remember when we had a call back for a bad joint.

    When we did a lot of lead work – temperature was controlled by maintaing a pot and ladle piece (by having solid and liquid lead in the pot and ladle at the same time – you have a 2-phase system that controls the temp.

    Also for you bread folks – you might want to try a Wassi stopper – or a freeze plug. Both leave no messy contaminants behind.

  12. J.R. Bluett says:

    Rob, thanks! You’ll be hearing about them, hopefully with better pictures and good tool details, there are a few that will get tested out on those projects.

  13. jc says:

    Speaking of the Sharkbite fittings, I used some about 6 months ago in this project: http://flickr.com/photos/jcwren/2756682167/ They tend to leak when the pressure is removed, but as soon as pressure is re-applied, they tighten right up.

    The valve arrangement allows completely bypassing the filter, either for changing the filter, or in case of failure. The pressure gauges are on valves because they’re a known leak hazard.

    So far, no leaks, no problems, and less crud in the water.

  14. tanais says:

    Its a flow swicth for a UV water sterilization system for my private water supply. I made it in compression pieces as it was a work in progress — the bowl was put there just for the first few hours to see if it slow dripped. If it did, nip it up a bit tighter.

    I have since replaced the socket with a proper IP56 rated insulated switch box. The Flow swicth has to be firing upwards in order to work. It basically switches on and off the UV lamp on demand saving electricity. Its been like this for a few years now and yes my water is now safe to drink.

  15. tanais says:

    >but this picture is a bit silly to me.

    It works extremely well. I made it up out of leftover copper and compression pieces salvaged from other jobs. This way it cost me just the flow switch and a few olives; I reused copper and compression pieces so no new pieces were bought to fit the switch. Reuse of offcuts and old compression pieces is *vastly* preferable to buying a blowtorch/solder/flux and new pipe/connectors (none of which I was prepared to buy while I had leftovers I could use).

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