Tools for sweating copper pipe, questions & answers

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by vaman, Jun 8, 2010.

  1. vaman

    vaman New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    I am going to sweat copper pipe for the first time. I desoldered the damaged fitting today and wanted to attach the new fitting tomorrow. Can I use steel wool to clean the fitting and the pipe or do I need to get an emery cloth and pipe brush? I've read different things on the interent and don't know what to think. I do know that preparation is critical for these jobs.Want to save another trip to the store.

    Thanks
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2010
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I like steel wool for cleaning pipe and fittings, but most guys would use emory cloth. If your pipe still has some solder residue on it, you may need some emory or sand cloth to buff that down so the new fitting will go on.
  3. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,334
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Emery cloth is simple to use because it comes in a roll that you can just tear of a short piece as you need it. Actually, for a small job, ordinary sandpaper will do the job quite well. For the inside of the fittings, it is much easier to use a brush. A brush for the pipe will also work, I just find that a piece of Emery is easier to keep track of and replace as needed. It really comes down to personal preference and amount of soldering you have to do.

    [​IMG]
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 8, 2010
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,513
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Steel wool CAN leave metal particles on the copper which could interfere with a perfect joint.
  5. Furd

    Furd Engineer

    Messages:
    446
    Location:
    Wet side of Washington State
    The word for the abrasive is emery, not emory.
  6. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,905
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I saw the amateur clip on youtube with the guy using steel wool. That was painful to watch.
    Most plumbers use emery cloth ( Oatey abrasive open mesh #31321)

    Or special plumbing tools for cleaning the pipe that have wire brushes.
    Millrose 4 in 1 Brush, #70264

    Bridgit
    Lead-free solder widely used in plumbing applicatons where lead-bearing solders are prohibited. Contains nickel, making joints tremendously strong. Wide plastic range makes Bridgit and excellent alloy for large diameter fittings and ill-fitted on non-concentric pipes. Fills gaps and caps off easily and effectively. Harris

    Everflux
    Water soluble in hot and cold water

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 9, 2011
  7. vaman

    vaman New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    Thanks for all the replies. Since there is solder residue and I don't want to risk redoing the job in the future I'll just get one of those plumber's tools.They can't be that much and is still less than me calling a plumber!
  8. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    1. Open mesh emery cloth. It's the best plain and simple.
    2. Flux. I don't really much like water soluable fluxes. Mainly because I once bought a tub of Lennox water soluable flux and it was horrific. I used it twice and then threw it out.
    3. Fitting brush for each size of fitting you are soldering.
    4. 95/5 solder.
    5. A rag.
    6. A fire extinguisher :D:D:D
  9. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,905
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    In the US we can't legally use acid based flux.
    They found that over time it was destroying the copper fittings.
    We've been soldering with water soluble flux for years. It's harder, but doable.
  10. vaman

    vaman New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    NJ
    Job Done

    I was close to calling a plumber but got the tools as suggested and was actually able to resolder the pipe without burning down our home. Thanks for the helpful replies!
  11. Hairyhosebib

    Hairyhosebib New Member

    Messages:
    173
    Location:
    Arizona
    I personally like to clean the pipe with green 3M Scotch Brite pads. You can get them in the grocery store. Always be sure to remove the ridge from the inside of the copper tube after cutting. This is the most important prep work before sweating the pipe. A phenomenon called "hydraulic jump" will occur if you don't. As water goes over this ridge it will swirl and actually cause a hole to form. The hole from the inside will look like a backward horseshoe foot print. Get yourself a spray bottle of Laco COOL GEL and spray it around good so you don't burn down the house. This stuff is amazing.
  12. lee_leses

    lee_leses New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    A few questions about sweating copper.

    I am no stranger to sweating copper, but it's been years since I did it an I am somewhat rusty. I have two questions.

    1) I'm not clear on, does the pipe have to be completely free of water to properly solder? If there is a drop or two of water but the fitting heats up and solder flows freely, will that make a good joint, or does it lead to a weak or cold solder joint if the pipe is not completely free of water? I had a joint or two where I know there was some water, but I could see the solder melt well and suck into the joint.

    2) On one of my joints, not in a joint with some water in the pipe, the joint seemed to not suck the solder into the joint, it seemed to flow and make a bead around the lip of the copper coupler, but I could not see it sucking into the joint, as I can recall. I think it was on a pipe that already had some solder on it that I had unsoldered without cutting. Could it be that there was already enough solder on the pipe that more did not need to suck into the joint, or does that sound more like a cold solder joint?

    I should note I very carefully prepared all these joints carefully with a wire brush tool and the emory cloth, and used a light coat of oatey flux on the fittings and the end of the pipe.

    I don't remember ever having a sweat joint I did leak on me later. But I was reading about so many little things, don't use too much flux, put the flame exactly where you want the solder to suck into, let the joint cool on it's own, don't cool it with water, and all that stuff made it seem like if you don't do it just right you could have problems later!

    Any input on all of the above would be great!

    Lee
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2011
  13. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,905
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    There shouldn't be any water in the pipes when soldering. To drain the home more quickly, I will open up all of the faucets in the home and allow the pipes to drain down. If you leave faucets closed, then it's like putting your thumb on the top of a straw, the water stays in the pipes and very very slowly drips down. Unless you have the entire afternoon to wait, open everything up.

    When soldering, have something open. Heated air expands and has to go somewhere. Make sure it's not blowing a hole in your solder joint from the steam.

    If you joint is in a low spot and you can't get the water out, it's sometimes quicker to cut the line there, drain it and then couple it back up.
  14. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,334
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Three things come to my mind on your question #2. (a) If you had already soldered the joint and filled the pipe with water, more solder would not draw into the joint even if it is dry, (b) Any moisture in or near a joint will prevent solder from flowing as Terry pointed out and, (c) previously soldered pipe or fittings will re-solder just fine. The usual problem is the old solder may add enough thickness to the pipe/fitting and make reassembly difficult unless well smoothed out. Best way to do that is to heat the old solder and wipe the molten solder with a dry rag. This is a bit tricky on the inside of fittings, although a cleaning brush will do it. Most of us will just us a new fitting rather than spend the time to clean the old fitting well enough to reuse.
  15. lee_leses

    lee_leses New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Thank you!

    Terry, I really appreciate your thoughts, having the forum, and your time to put my question into the right thread. Thank you for clearing that up about getting mostly ALL the water out.

    Bit by bit, I am learning more. I never could understand why the reaming was so important until I read about the turbulance.

    Gary, the pipe was mostly if not completely empty of water when I was working on the one joint I'm worried about.

    If a soldered joint is going to fail after the system is pressurized, I guess most of the time it would not blow apart or anything, it would just start with a pinhole leak or a slow drip? Based on thing's you've seen, is there any way to predict how long it would be before a bad solder joint would show itself? Or is there just too many variables to ever predict that?

    I should say, this is a small ranch house, just the kitchen sink, laundry room, and one bathroom. It's well water. I am not sure why, I could not seem to get 100% of the water to drain on the cold side. And I did open up the kitchen sink and the bathtub faucets. Maybe because the vanity was not hooked up and the shutoff valves were off, I guess there was probably a lot of water in the vanity pipes. I guess it's important to open ALL the faucets. I wonder how you can get the washer pipes to drain without disconnectiing the washer lines...
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2011
  16. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,905
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Well.........you do the best you can. I don't worry about the washer hoses, but I do open all the easy things.
    Sometimes a main shutoff will leak through, so with some home, I will turn the water off at the meter. Since you are on a well, you have your own dedicated shutoff. I've found that gate valves can be bad sometimes. I prefer ball valves; they seem to last better and seal off better.

    If I have water that keeps weeping in and I want to finish sooner, I can stuff the pipe with some white bread to soak up the water until the fitting is heated and soldered. If you do that, you need to pull the aerators off of the faucets and do some flushing. The bread plugs up small screens. And don't use whole wheat, you don't want seeds in there.
  17. lee_leses

    lee_leses New Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    LOL! Thanks a LOT Terry!

    There are two ball valves, one on each side of the housing of an Aqua Pure filter. That's why I was so surprised that the cold water was still dripping, I threw both of those ball valves at the filter and it was still dripping.

    Hey, do you know about those AP801 filter housings? It uses the 9 3/4 by 4 1/2 size filter, and I wasn't sure if the generic filter from Home Depot will fit in there or not. This filter has not been changed in years, and the water smells terrible. I'm wondering what problems I will run into when I unscrew the housing on the filter to change the filter...
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