5 steps to a perfect solder joint
While working for a newly built plumbing company in 2006, out of ten employees, only three of us knew how to weld copper pipe.
The other plumbers never welded before because they were trained in the use of plastic pipes; here is an example: Pvc, Cpvc and pex pipes.
Did this make them bad plumbers?
Far from it, they were very good at their job.
In fact, they showed me how to install pex pipes without twisting them.
In return, I showed them how to weld copper pipes.
The result, one of them used the knowledge I taught them, while another forgot some important steps and caused a major leak.
To avoid any leaks that may cause damage to your home, we welcome 5 steps to a perfect solder joint.
With copper it is important not to miss a step or there could be disastrous results. Remember these steps and you’ll be on your way to a perfect solder joint every time.
Here are the 5 steps you need to take to get a perfect solder joint every time.
- Cut the tubing to size
- Clean and deburr the pipe
- Clean the inside of the accessory
- melts the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting
- Welding time 2
Cut the tubing to size– Measure the length of tubing you will need to join your plumbing system. Using a pipe cutter, cut your pipe to size (remember to measure twice and cut once).
Clean the pipe: Using an emery cloth or paper, sand each end of the pipe until shiny. Make sure the manufacturing oils are out of the pipe. Wipe clean to remove any sand or copper residue.
The deburring tool at the end of the pipe cutter helps remove rough edges that could cause leaks down the road. Using your pipe reamer on the pipe cutter, ream the inside edges of the copper pipe removing any burrs. You want a smooth edge.
Clean your accessories using a tube brush that is the appropriate size for your tube. To speed up the process, I cut the cleaning brush at the top of the handle and insert it inside my drill.
Turn the speed of your drill to a high level and clean the inner hub of the accessory. If you see any dark spots inside the accessory, keep cleaning the area until it is removed.
The dark spot is the oil left over from the cutting and forming process in manufacturing. If this oil is left, it will burn your fixture and not take up the solder.
Flow tubing and accessories: Using your past flux, brush each end of the tubing and fittings. This will ensure a clean, tinned joint.
Time to pay: Whatever the size of your pipe, that’s the amount of solder you’ll need to use to sweat the joints together. Therefore, if you are soldering 1 “and one inch copper pipe, you will need one inch of solder to sweat the joints together.
With a blowtorch, heat the pipe and fit evenly. Start two inches behind the fitting and slowly heat the pipe and fitting in a back and forth sweeping motion. Make sure your flame is close enough to cover the entire diameter of the pipe.
When your flame turns green, apply the solder to the center of the fitting, making sure the solder flows around the center. Expect!There is one more “Secret” step to a perfect solder joint, which means the difference between a hobbyist mess on your fixtures or a professional-looking solder joint every time.
Even if this is your first time to weld copper pipe, I’ll let you in on a secret step that most plumbers won’t tell you about.
Why? Good question and here is the answer.
Most plumbers believe that if welded joints look better than their colleagues, they are better plumbers. Trust me when I tell you that most plumbers are very condescending and competitive, and actually an attractive solder joint takes time and practice.
Secret Sixth Step That Will Improve Your Weld Finishes.
Once you’ve filled your hub with solder, you will see the shape of the solder and it will start to dry around the hub and may even overflow and run through the fitting. Here’s what to do and have on hand.
You will need a damp cloth towel called a cleaning towel or any old rag will do.
You also need a spray bottle filled with water.
While the solder is still in its molten form, take your damp cloth and wipe the solder around the hub. While cleaning, your goal is to try and push most of the solder into the center of the fitting. Be careful because the solder, fitting, and tubing are very hot.
Once you have completed that part of the task, spray a mist of water on the pipe and fitting. Then clean the connection and lower the tubing again. This last step will remove any excess flux and dirt from your perfect solder joint.
Simple enough, huh?
Believe it or not, it may take a trainee a few months to discover this secret sixth step that will improve their weld finish. Take it for a spin and remember that practice makes perfect.
Now you know the 5 steps to a perfect solder joint and the sixth special bonus secret step that will enhance your solder finishes. To retain this new knowledge and make it yours, it is time to act.