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How to solder copper pipes

Successful solder joints are easy for do-it-yourselfer.
Information applies to copper water pipe, and not refrigeration pipes that require hotter torch and different solder
This page contains cautions and advisories to help prevent possible problems.
Remember your water is turned OFF
Soldering torch can cause fire.
Run water hose from neighbor's house and get ready.
Have fire extinguisher handy
get buckets of water ready.
Fill bathtub.
BE SAFE
How to solder pipes Gather materials:
Elbows, couplings, male and/or female adapters
Sandpaper.

Tube cutter. Photo shows mini-cutter for tight locations.
Cut copper pipe with hack saw, or jig saw.
Tube cutter makes smooth cut, and mini cutter is for tight locations.
Mini tubing cutter at Amazon
Tubing cutters at Amazon

Same instructions apply to all sizes household Copper pipe.
'Under-counter' water heaters generally have 1/2" connections. Some have 1/4" compression fittings, and do not need solder.
'Whole-house' water heaters have 3/4" connections. It is usually easier to connect water heater using flexible copper lines, but flexible connections depend on rubber washer.
Make sure water pressure does not exceed 80 psi, or damage can occur to plumbing and water heater.
Water pressure
How to solder copper pipe

Remove flammables from work area

Be safe
Explosion inside your home wastes precious fuel, and could burn down neighbor's garage.

Buy:
Gas safety cans at Amazon
solder paste
Buy soldering paste/ or flux
Soldering paste is applied to pipes and fittings.
Use stiff-bristled paste brush sold on same shelf next to paste.
Do not use grease. Soldering paste looks and feels like grease but is not grease.
Soldering paste at Amazon
Buy propane tank and torch tip

Example shows propane tank with self-lighting tip 
Squeeze trigger and propane ignites, squeeze trigger again and torch turns off.
Self Lighting Soldering Torch at Amazon
Trigger start torches at Amazon

Propane fuel cylinder at Amazon

Always remove torch tip from tank when finished to prevent leaking. Store propane outdoors when possible.
Sand ends of pipe
Use sandpaper to sand end of pipes and inside fittings
Then wipe with dry rag to remove grit

Ream copper tubeReam the inside of tube until smooth.
Rough interor edges of tube can cause copper pipe errosion
Sand inside fittings
Use finger to rotate sandpaper inside each fitting
Then wipe with dry rag to remove grit
Sand solder to remove oxidation and dirt.
If solder has been in toolbox for a while, it will get dirty and also turn dark color.

Use Lead Free solder
Read label on side of solder: label must say product can be used for household water pipes.
Do NOT use leaded solder for drinking water pipes.
Lead free solder at Amazon
lead free solder
Use Lead Free solder
Apply soldering paste or flux
Apply soldering paste completely around end of pipe using paste brush.
Put paste wherever solder is going to stick.
Solder will stick to pipe where solder paste is applied.
Keep paste away from end of pipe so solder will not get into pipe
Solder paste brush at Amazon
Do not flip paste into eyes. Wear goggles, or move brush in direction away from eyes
Apply soldering paste inside fittings
Apply soldering paste completely around inside of  fitting, but only where pipe is seated.
Solder will stick where paste is applied.

Use metal shield
Example shows pipes being soldered on workbench.
Use piece of galvanized to protect other surfaces from catching fire.

Plan ahead. Use metal shield to prevent fires. When working indoors, be sure to have water available in case fire starts. If water is turned off, then fill bucket with water, and keep cup and bucket nearby.
fire risk from soldered pipes
Risk of fire/ Use metal shield, keep water ready
Precautions/ plan ahead, use common sense
Do NOT solder pipes in attic or walls next to flammable insulation or paper or wood. Let professional, insured plumber handle job.
Do NOT solder in same room where paint or gasoline is stored. Remove all flammable products, and air out room before lighting torch. Turn off gas line when working on water heater. Some flammable vapors such as gasoline and LP gas are heavier than air and hug the floor. Use nose to check for flammable vapors.
Copper pipe is NOT used for gas line. For LP and NG gas: Use approved yellow flex line or black pipe. Natural gas and LP gas are reactive with copper pipe, and reactive to galvanized pipe..
How to solder copper pipe
Remove flammables from work area
Light torch with match Light torch using striker or match
Flow of gas will blow out match
Striker is easiest way to light torch.
Striker at Amazon

To light torch with match: Turn gas ON so some gas is flowing.
Then raise match part-way into gas from below.
When gas ignites, blow out match, and turn gas pressure up.
To turn torch OFF, rotate knob until flame disappears.
Remove torch tip from gas tank when finished to prevent leaks.
Store propane tanks outside away from people.
solder copper pipes
Heat copper fitting with torch

Fit connection together, then apply heat to copper fitting
Do not heat solder.
Once pipe is hot, then Position solder as shown at joint between pipe and fitting
When pipe and fitting are hot enough, then solder will suddenly melt and flow wherever you put flux.

Solder will suddenly melt and flow where you put solder paste
There is no need to heat and solder 'other side of joint' because solder will flow completely around the joint and stick to surfaces where you put solder paste.
This is why solder paste is important.
Remember solder paste must be put all around the copper pipe, and around inside of copper fitting where pipe will seat.

How to solder copper pipe
Solder hasn't melted yet
solder copper pipe
Solder will flow around entire joint
When the solder melts, it will flow immediately into the joint around entire pipe.
Move solder briefly down each side to ensure solder flows all directions.
Not much solder is needed.
Wipe away excess solder with wet rag if possible, but this action is mostly for appearance.

Move solder away after flow is observed.
Let torch remain on joint for a moment to ensure full heating.
Move torch to second joint. 

Entire length of pipe will be very hot.
Solder will harden quickly after torch is removed.

Solder will flow around pipe and bond to copper where solder paste was applied.
Joint is finished = move torch to second joint
bad solder joint Bad solder joint
Bad solder joint: does not have uniform solder, and crack shows between pipe and fitting.
Even small crack indicates bad solder joint.
Bad joints must be replaced and cannot be re-soldered
Pipe and fitting must be dry.
Good and bad solder joints
Bad joints must be replaced and cannot be re-soldered
Good and Bad solder joints
Inspect each joint. Bad joints must be replaced and cannot be re-soldered
Make sure solder is uniform around entire pipe.
Make sure there are no cracks or gaps between pipe and fitting.

Causes for bad solder joint.
Wrong solder paste. Wrong solder. Read product labels. Buy new solder and paste.
No solder paste was used. Solder paste applied incorrectly. Read directions top of page.
Copper not fully heated. Hold torch on copper longer before applying solder.
Torch was used to heat solder instead of copper.
Water between pipe and fitting.

Water will not shut off when soldering
Stuff white bread into pipe to temperorily halt small drip.
Open other faucets to completely drain or divert water.
Tip pipe to drain water, then tip pipe upwards to solder. Wipe water off pipe and joint.
Make last solder joint on vertical coupling.
Solder each joint

When first and second solder joints are finished, move to next joint.
Solder will solidify very fast once torch is moved away.

When soldering male and female adaptors, it is best to disconnect the adapter from appliance or shut off valve before soldering the fitting. This will prevent heat damage.
For example with water heater, always solder adapters onto minimum 12" of pipe, then screw adapter to water heater. This will prevent heat damage to water heater caused by torch.

1/2" male adapter is soldered to pipe. When cool, connect other fittings or connect shut off valve to adapter.
Install shut off valve
Finish soldering, let pipe cool, then connect shut off

When copper is cool, connect other fittings like shut-off.
This will prevent damage to shut off valve.
For example, heat from torch might melt rubber washer inside shut-off

Do not solder copper fittings that are directly connected to valves, water heaters, faucets etc.
Heat from torch will damage appliances, and valves etc

Let pipe cool before connecting shut-off valve.
Good and bad solder joints
Soldering inside wall
Move all flammables.
Keep water nearby
Use metal shield to protect against fire
Use stick or wire to hold pipe in place so pipes do not move while soldering.

Use wet rag and wipe away excess solder. Extra solder drips are not professional in appearance.
Take reasonable precautions.Stay with pipe for several minutes until cool to make sure no fire has started. Notice wedged stick is located very close to soldered joint, and is touching hot pipe, but did not catch fire.

Inspect solder joints to make sure solder fills  completely around pipe.



Additional links
  
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☑ White for water lines
☑ Yellow for gas lines

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HOT side Sharkbite flexible water heater connector

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Stainless steel flexible connection

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89T thermostat kit
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Symptoms: Cold water, uneven temperatures, reset tripping, TP releasing water
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Icon gas valve   
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If tank is overheating or not heating correctly, replace thermostat
Symptoms: Cold water, uneven temperatures, TP releasing water
Buy
Gas water heater thermostats at Amazon 

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