Soldering is an essential part of many do-it-yourself plumbing repairs. When you are replacing part of a pipe, or installing a new fixture, you often have to solder the two metal parts together to ensure a perfect fit with no leaks. While soldering is often used as a catch-all name to describe the process of joining pipes using melted metal, there is actually a similar but distinct technique known as brazing that can also be used. Read on to learn about the difference.
High-Temperature Plumbing Repairs
The difference between soldering and brazing has to do with the material you are using to join two pipes, and how hot you need to heat the substance to melt it:
- Most home plumbing repairs use soldering materials, which are generally heated to temperatures around 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes, the temperatures need to be hotter, and any alloy that melts at 840 degrees or less is considered solder. Solder is usually composed primarily of tin, mixed with another metal such as nickel for added strength. Solder was previously made with a tin and lead mixture, but that substance has been discontinued since officials realized the health risks of exposing drinking water to lead pipes.
- Other plumbing repairs, however, require stronger metals that are melted at far higher temperatures. Metals that need to be heated above 840 degrees are considered brazing alloys, and they often need to be raised to 1,150 degrees or higher. Brazing alloys are typically made of a mix of copper and phosphorus, or silver mixed with other elements.
Creating a Leak-Free Environmental in Your Pipes
Copper melts at a temperature of 1,981 degrees, and you obviously can't heat solder or alloy to that point or you will destroy your pipes in the process. That temperature sounds absurdly high, but some brazing jobs do actually use torches that heat the alloy as high as 1,550 degrees. Many soldering torches do not create temperatures high enough to braze metals, so you need to purchase specialty equipment.
Other than the type of alloy and the temperature of the torch, the process of soldering and brazing is essentially the same, so plumbers choose between the two depending on the nature of the repair they are attempting. Soldering is the more common method, used for most standard plumbing repairs. Brazing is frequently used in fittings that need to withstand higher stresses, or where the pipes don't fit together perfectly and would benefit from the stronger bond.
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If you need help with soldering, brazing or any other plumbing repairs, call the plumbing professionals without delay.