Twin Ell - Solder Cracked - Use Compression Fitting?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by surfmaster, Feb 5, 2018.

  1. surfmaster

    surfmaster New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Location:
    Honolulu
    I recently installed a new tub spout to my two-handle Price Pfister shower valve. I removed the old tub spout with galvanized pipe nipple and replaced it with a new 3" long by 3/4" brass nipple. It took quite an amount of counterclockwise force with a pipe wrench to remove the old tub spout. It looked like the original spout installed when the shower and home were built in the mid 1960s. I noticed the drop-ear elbow was loose (it's not a drop-ear elbow).

    I removed the access panel behind the shower and noticed a small leak near the tub spout or elbow. I cut a 12" X 12" piece of drywall and noticed the leak is coming from the elbow. This elbow has two top 1/2" connections with a front 3/4" opening for the diverter spout. This was news to me. Turning to Google, I found that this elbow is called a Twin Ell, https://www.plumbingsupply.com/images/tubshowerpart-twinell-dimensions.jpg.

    The leak is coming from the first copper pipe joint - the valve line versus the shower riser. I must have cracked the solder when I used counterclockwise force to remove the old tub spout.

    I plan on desoldering both copper connections - valve and shower riser - and then resoldering them. I realize you cannot just add new solder to the cracked valve pipe joint. The valve connection copper pipe end may be "ify" since the solder was cracked and may be distorted from the force in removing the old pipe nipple.

    If I fail in adding new solder, can I just compression connections like these to complete this repair? https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CHHZTGY/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A2EZI3G0CWMAWQ&psc=1.

    Since I have to take apart both connections, I plan on buying a new Twin Ell versus reusing the current older one.

    Or, should I just call a plumber to do the job.

    Thanks in advance for your comments.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    FWIW, a proper solder joint could take a couple of thousand pounds to tear it apart...what you have is a cold solder joint. That can happen if the installer does not heat the fitting, and heats the pipe. That heavy fitting will need more heat to be able to properly melt the solder, but the solder will melt on the thinner copper fitting or if he had the flame on it. When everything starts clean, the flux is not burned out because of overheating, and you get the fitting hot enough, the solder will flow into the joint and you won't have a cold solder joint.

    The only way to fix a bad joint like that is to take it apart, clean up all of the pieces, add flux, and resolder it. It may be easier to use new parts, since, at least, you don't have to try to clean enough solder out of it to get the new piece inserted.

    Whether you should do this yourself, or pay a pro, depends on your skill level and if you have to buy the torch and related materials to do the job.

    Today's fluxes are harder to use than the old ones, especially if you don't do it often. I've had better luck using a tinning flux (one that has some powdered solder in it) than the 'plain' water based fluxes mandated for potable water plumbing required today. The water based fluxes tend to burn if you get things too hot, making for a poor joint...it takes a little finesse. It seems easier with the tinning fluxes, since you can actually see the solder in the flux melting and know you can then add more to complete the joint before it overheats. Depending on the joint and your torch, the time between not hot enough and burned can be fairly short! For someone that does this regularly, it would be a piece of cake.
     
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  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I would consider installing a new single handle faucet while you are at it.
    Moen makes a nice replacement that covers the two holes that the PP had, and it's pressure balanced. Then you can ditch the twin EL.
    If you can wait until May, I can do it.
    Okay, you're not waiting, that's okay. I would think plumber on this though, as you will have the water off and using a torch in the wall. Not saying you can't, but it would be nice to have someone that can do it in their sleep.

    [​IMG]

    https://terrylove.com/forums/index.php?threads/moen-tl2368ep-shower-remodel-trim.61164/

    What you had was a 50/50 solder joint. You can break those, but not the joints done with 95/5
     
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  5. surfmaster

    surfmaster New Member

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    Hi Jim and Terry: Your quick, detailed replies are much appreciated. I've become coming to this forum for years to learn about these plumbing projects. The tips you and the team provide are invaluable. Didn't know about 50/50 solder til you brought it up. I'll be contacting a plumber for this job so it can be done right from the start. Thanks again!!!
     
  6. surfmaster

    surfmaster New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Location:
    Honolulu
    Hi Jim, Terry and those who "Love" this cool forum,

    Happy Presidents' Day! Based on your advice, I contacted a friend who referred a plumber to me. The plumber also happened to be a friend that I've known for the past two decades. He removed the old solder from the two threaded adapters, removed and reinstalled the two adapters to the twin ell, and resoldered them to the two copper pipes (valve and shower riser) - all at a great rate. The leak is gone and I'm happy. Thanks again for the great suggestions; keep up the great work.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    Looks good. You don't normally solder the threaded connection, but you can. In the situation where you need to solder a joint nearby a threaded one, it's a decent option since that excess heat could make the threaded seal fail.

    Solder joints can fail for a couple of reasons:
    - a cold solder joint...this is caused by not heating the two pieces enough for the solder to really flow into the joint. It can also happen if you don't use enough flux for solder to flow properly. It can hold for a long time until it is disturbed. Sometimes, it doesn't take much as that less than perfect joint can lead to corrosion which will also weaken the joint. A proper one, normally can't be torn apart unless reheated.
    - a contaminated joint. Failing to clean the two pieces properly, overheating the joint and burning the flux can prevent the solder from flowing properly, or water or steam blowing through the solder before it can solidify can create a channel through the solder. That last one is why you need to have one end of the pipe open so steam pressure can't build up. Even without steam, that high heat can raise the air pressure, but all it takes is a little bit of moisture...water expands a HUGE amount when it becomes steam.
     
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  8. Michael Young

    Michael Young Active Member

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    Sep 20, 2016
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I agree with Terry. Unless there's something REALLY SPECIAL about your faucet - get that old garbage out of there and go with a new faucet. Terry recommends Moen. Personally, I would recommend Delta (mostly because a moen cartridge is $50, but you can replace the springs and seals in a delta cartridge for less than $1)
     
  9. surfmaster

    surfmaster New Member

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    Jim, I appreciate your detailed explanation. I was wondering why my plumber soldered the threaded connections but I guess the teflon tape would disintegrate with the heat. It's been over a week and there are no leaks so I can close up the drywall for now. It's great to learn the ins and outs of plumbing and soldering here. Thanks again!
     
  10. surfmaster

    surfmaster New Member

    Joined:
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    Michael, thanks for the tip on the Moen single-handle shower faucet and its cheaper springs and seals. I understand that both you and Terry recommend replacing the two handle shower faucet with a single one. If the current two handle breaks, I'll certainly make the update.

    We've not had an issue with scalding since our solar hot water heater has the Honeywell mixing valve. Is there another reason to make the update such as reduced pressure in the house plumbing or water efficiency (saving money)? If it's the latter, that would be a good reason since water/sewer costs are high in Hawaii. Thanks.
     
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    When it comes time to sell the house, the inspector will probably ding you for not having a shower valve that is current design. An anti-scald one has been required for decades now on new or remodel work. If your water distribution system is well designed, you typically would not get major pressure drops when say, someone flushes a toilet or uses water somewhere else, which, could decrease the amount of cold available, and thus make the shower momentarily hotter.
     
  12. surfmaster

    surfmaster New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Location:
    Honolulu
    Good info. The shower does get momentarily hotter when someone flushes the toilet or if the dishwasher is running. I'll start planning for a single-handle shower upgrade in the near future. Thanks again.
     
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