Soldering copper to shower fixture

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Catherina, Jul 9, 2008.

  1. Catherina

    Catherina New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Hi all,

    I am new to home repair in general (but now have several hours' experience with plumbing)!

    I am installing a new tub and shower, and have been working on the copper piping to install the fixtures. I have successfully sweated the copper piping together, but I'm having trouble with the main fixture. I don't have room for adapters, so I wanted to sweat the copper pipe right to the fixture. So far, I haven't been able to get the metal hot enough to melt the solder. I have not continued to apply heat past 90-120 seconds, though, because I don't want to damage the fixture itself. That amount of time didn't even come close to getting the metal hot enough; whereas while sweating copper together I only had to heat for 10 - 15 seconds or so.

    I applied the flame to the part of the fixture that I wanted the solder to flow to; is this where I'm going wrong? Should I heat the pipe instead? Any other advice?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,183
    Location:
    New England
    A propane torch is not as hot as those used by the pros. A MAPP gas tank could probably be used with your torch head which does burn hotter. If you remove the cartridge, you can keep the torch on longer. You need to heat the fixture, not the pipe.
  3. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    First , I hope you dissasemble the internals before heating. You did the right thing by not continuing to apply the heat. That usually leads to burnt flux and a bad job.

    The tip of the inner very bright blue flame is the hottest part.

    I might suggest that you get a MAPP torch instead of propane.
  4. Southern Man

    Southern Man DIY Hillbilly

    Messages:
    530
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I would suggest that you use a threaded adapter and sweat it to the copper pipe. It's not that big, and you don't risk damaging the fixture.
  5. Catherina

    Catherina New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Thanks guys - I'll give a hotter torch a try. If that's the issue, will I see the same indications that the joint is hot enough to solder (i.e. green flame, etc)?

    SM - I don't have enough room to use adapters, or I'd do that. I wish I did - I really dislike having to risk damage to the fixture.
  6. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

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    Location:
    Connecticut
    Just remove the internal parts from the valve and you won't hurt it!
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    heat

    If the flame turns green you have overheated it. When the solder melts against the joint, THAT is when it is the proper heat.
  8. Catherina

    Catherina New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Hmmm, how would you know that without stopping every few seconds to test it? My understanding is that you're not to hold the solder against the joint while heating - apply the solder after the joint is hot enough. Other sources say fairly consistently that the green flame is a reliable indicator and it seems to have worked so far...
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,183
    Location:
    New England
    YOu don't want to melt the solder directly with the flame, but if you can touch the solder to the joint without it being melted by the flame, you're fine. Depends somewhat on what access you have, the size of the flame, and the size of the pipe you are working on.
  10. Catherina

    Catherina New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Ah, I see.

    I decided to try to fit adapters on (Shark Bites). With the adapters on, the pipes are pushed a little to the side instead of coming straight up. Will that be a problem? I can just remove the adapters and sweat directly to the fixture if need be. I just thought I'd give the adapters a try and used the Shark Bites to eliminate the soldering altogether.
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,183
    Location:
    New England
    As long as you are able to get the Sharkbite fittings all the way on to their stops, it should be okay. Much side-tension, and they are hard to install, and are prone to leak (in theory, not sure in practice).
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,874
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    solder

    You do not melt the solder with the flame. You apply the heat to the joint, properly, then apply the solder to the opposite side. When the solder flows in the heat is correct. And you do not "stop every few seconds and test it", you do both things at the same time. That is why you have two hands.
  13. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

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    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Use both hands? At the same time? Man, I learn sumthin new from you pros on this forum everyday! :D
  14. Catherina

    Catherina New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Man, you must have a lot of room behind your pipes.
  15. Catherina

    Catherina New Member

    Messages:
    9
    They went on fine, but I was a little concerned about the side-tension like you mentioned. Well, we'll see what happens.
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