When most people get a leaky or broken copper pipe in their house, they call a plumber without a second thought. After all, using a soldering gun to patch the water supply line back together is a lot trickier than simple plumbing repair jobs like replacing a faucet. However, with the right tools and some DIY handy-person skills, you can take care of the job yourself and save the cost of a repair bill. Read on for tips on how to solder copper pipes together.
First Things First
Before you begin the soldering job, you need to gather all the tools you need. There's the propane torch, of course – then solder, an emery cloth and an acid known as “flux,” for cleaning the copper surface before you apply heat. You also need pipe cutters, replacement pipe and whatever other tools are necessary to repair the water line before you solder. Finally, for safety, you should wear gloves and protective eye gear, and keep a bucket of water handy in case you accidentally start a fire with your torch.
The next step is to turn your home’s water supply off at the source and start your plumbing repair. Before you try to join two pipes, you need to clean them thoroughly, removing any copper burrs, dirt, grime or corrosion using the emery cloth, a wire brush or other cleaning tools. Once the pipe ends are smooth and shiny, brush on a layer of flux, which will etch the pipes and allow the solder to flow through. Finally, push the pipes together.
Igniting the Flame
When you apply your propane torch to the joint you wish to solder, make sure you heat the whole circumference of the pipe evenly. Hold the solder against the joint, opposite from the torch, and let the liquid metal drip inside where the pipes are connected. Move around the pipe with the solder until it has melted into the entire joint.
Next, let the joint cool for a few minutes before you try to put any pressure on it, then repeat the process for any other joints that need connecting. Once you finish soldering all the joints in place, turn the water on and try running it through the pipes. If you see any leakage at all coming from the areas you soldered, bad news: you need to get the torch back out to plug the leak with solder. It's possible that you didn't clean the pipes thoroughly enough, or perhaps you didn't melt the solder evenly all around the pipe. In some cases, it may be necessary to start the plumbing repair all over from scratch.
When it's Time to Pass the Torch
Finally, if you find yourself in over your head, there's no shame in asking for assistance from a professional. That way, you’ll know the job is done right, and you can watch and learn something as well. If you need help soldering a broken pipe, or with any other plumbing repairs, contact an expert plumber today.