soldering off old copper fittings

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  #1  
Old 07-26-03, 11:24 AM
Luciak
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Exclamation soldering off old copper fittings

We are trying to replace and move old copper pipe in our bathroom. We are heating the old solder etc. but the pipe won't budge or come out. Can we just hack it off? The actual moving of the pipe is fairly simple, we just can't seem to get the old sodder to melt. Help! the rest of our bathroom project must wait untl we can pull this pipe out of the floor.
 
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Old 07-26-03, 12:12 PM
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Cut the old fitting off, add a coupling and go from there.
 
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Old 07-26-03, 03:16 PM
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Your existing pipe probably has water in it. This would prevent the solder from getting hot enough to melt.

Take it from somebody who's had experience with this sort of thing. The best thing to do is just cut out the old copper pipe, throw it away and replumb your bathroom with CPVC. That's what I would do. Just don't forget to use a transition union when you tie your CPVC into the existing hot water line.

Robert
 
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Old 07-26-03, 07:20 PM
Luciak
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Wink

Thanks! Actually the pipe did have too much water in it and we did hack it off after all. We replaced it with copper and soldered it back on. All of this just to tile the bathroom floor! Thanks!
 
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Old 07-27-03, 07:15 PM
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Learned about water in the line a year ago, pro friend crotiqued me.
New question (related):
What is the best technique for sweating a joint in copper? What method is the pro way to shine up the outside of the pipe? inside of the fitting I have a wire brush. Flux it, heat it, and then what______
Add solder with torch on fitting, or no torch?
I have read two different methods.

Also, where is the standard location to put valves to shutoff a shower? An access panel on the other side (old fashioned way) or in the basement?
I am considering finishing the ceiling in the basement, but there will be other valves down there. Is the in-wall method still common? (am leaning towards the basement)

gj
 
  #6  
Old 07-27-03, 09:30 PM
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According to a Hometime how-to video I saw one time, you hold the flame to one side of the fitting (but not to the pipe so much) and the solder to the other making sure that the fitting melts the solder and not the flame.

But even after you do everything by the book, you will notice that at least 20 or 30% of your joints will leak. In fact sometimes, the joints won't even take up the solder at all. And after you've discovered which joints are leaking, you then have to cut the pipe since the solder won't melt with water in the pipe. Then you have to unsolder, reclean and reflux the pipe and fittings, replug the pipe if water keeps leaking in to the fittings that you're trying to solder, put everything back together and solder again. And if some joints still leak, you'll have to do this all over again. Sweating copper is more infuriating than most people might imagine at first. Unless professional plumbers have some secret technique that I'm not aware of, I don't see how they can make a career out of this without eventually winding up in the insane asylum.

Robert
 
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Old 07-29-03, 05:10 PM
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water pips

I have found that the trouble most people have with soldering copper pipe or just copper. They dont have the right torch to get the heat up too solder the joint and get out. They take to long to get the heat up that it has burned the flux up on the joint. Also a trick we use lots. if you have water in a pipe. drill a small hole in it and let the water out down the line some where . After your done with the rest of the job just go back and put a drop of solder on the hole its not hard to plug up ED
 
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Old 07-29-03, 06:08 PM
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Sorry Ed,

But to drill a hole in the pipe just to fix one spot is not the way to do this, besides how in the world will seal the hole you drilled if you have water there after-wards, you make no sense.
 
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Old 08-03-03, 05:26 AM
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hot torch for me

I struggled for years with a propane torch even with lead solder. It was a disaster when we switched to lead free. I went with a Mapp Gas torch and every joint from then on was leak free. Except for the ones I forgot to sweat. But look out it can overheat the work.
 
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Old 08-03-03, 10:33 AM
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Got the project 98% done, one leak: output side of 1/4turn valve for frost-proof spigot outside. Not too bad for 23+ fittings, water back on to satisfy the household.

Question #1 should I heat it again and add more solder, or is there more to it?

Question#2, I took out some valves that were installed within the past ten years, and the valves are decent. Unfortunately they were installed into pipe from 1957. If I heat the joint up with valve in a vise, use chennellocks to twist out the pipe, how do I get the excess solder out/get another piece of pipe in? I have a project to fool with involving a water line to the garden for soaker hoses. If I could reuse the valves I took out of my house it would save some $.

gj
I'm taking on more plumbing endeavors, and I never like plumbing!

What is the trade name for flux? Why does HomeDepot sell more than oe kind?
 
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Old 08-04-03, 08:49 AM
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The new tin-antimony solders melt a little higher than the old lead solder. Propane will work on 1/2 inch lines pretty well. It starts to take to long to heat (cooks out the flux) on 3/4 inch lines. Ts are an even bigger problem. By the time two joints are completed the flux is gone in the third. MAPP gas is a little better. Acetylene and air is the best. A number of companies make the torches. They are hot enough and can be had with tips large enough for work up to about 2 inches or so. Above that multi-head torches become a good alternative.
If you look around you can find tin-copper-silver soft solders that are lead free. These work nicer than the tin-antimony. Leaking joints are usually either inadequate cleaning, or cooking the flux out with to small a torch (either tip size or gas type). If you have much work to do, buy the torch (usually about $60) and rent an acetylene tank when you need it.
 
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Old 08-04-03, 05:07 PM
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Why not just use plastic pipe?

Robert
 
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Old 08-04-03, 06:51 PM
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I guess I will chime in on this again hopefully for the benefit of all who will look up this topic in the future... First of all, I saw where someone said that if you did a job in copper soldering everything that you would have 20 to 30% of the joints to leak afterwards... No disrespect intended, but I have trained many people on soldering, and if they have 1 leak out of 1000, I would retrain them, and if it happened enough, I would fire them... If soldering is done correctly, IT SHOULD NOT LEAK, PERIOD... I think Plumber2000 would agree with that... As for the type of flux, I use Oatey no. 5 in a red can, sold about everywhere, or I use Oatey self-tinning in a green can... I NEVER use water soluble because it burns up too easily and it also doesn't thin the solder like it should... As for the gas you use, ACETYLENE/ OXY setup will work but is cumbersome and overkill, Propane gets hot enough, but it just takes more gas, so MAPP is what I use... Of course, I grew up using ACETYLENE/ OXY, then went to propane next, and finally began using MAPP about 10 years ago... ALL of them get hot enough, and they can all get a joint TOO hot... The trick is to learn how to maintain a fitting to be soldered just beyond the melting point of the solder you are using, regardless of the type... SANDPAPER is the "pro choice" for cleaning up the outside of the pipe, a steel brush for the inside of fittings... FLUX is the trade name for flux... Most of what is sold at HD is JUNK, but they do carry Oatey stuff, though I question if it is first quality compared to what I buy at the supply house (most stuff isn't)... Once you have the fitting cleaned, the pipe cleaned, you then flux male and female and put the joint together... Then you heat the fitting... Keep touching the end of your solder to the opposite side of the joint from the flame... That way, you will know that both sides are hot enough when the solder begins to melt... As soon as the solder begins to melt, pull the flame away briefly and then only reapply it as necessary to get the solder to just barely melt in... You don't need to run the solder all the way around... If you have heated the fitting properly, the solder will draw all the way around and start to drip off the bottom... I personally do run the solder around to any blind side however just for good measure... Once the solder drips a couple times, you should be good... I then sit the solder down, and grab a DRY rag and just wipe off the bead or any rough spots in the solder while it is still above melting temp... Flame can be reapplied during the wiping process to help neaten up the joint...

A joint done correctly should NEVER leak... I have seen exceptions where a low-quality fitting might be out of round and has a gap on one side but even that is rare...

Now as for having water in a pipe, I have never drilled a hole in a pipe to drain water... It may let enough water out, but it may also just leave you with a hole that is difficult to repair in itself... It will have a raised edge and will likely hold enough water that you can't solder it... Even if you could, solder is intended to work on fittings... It is not an appropriate patching method for a hole... A hole would need to be BRAZED which uses an entirely different process more similar to welding...

Finally, what started this whole thread was questions about how to separate old valves and fittings by heating them... In a rare instance, it might be necessary to heat a fitting loose... Most likely in an instance where I look on my truck and am one fitting short of finishing a job, and I have a new one that I might have made a mistake on... (technically, I can't REUSE a fitting by code, as a new job is only as good as the OLDEST fitting I use)... In any case, it is generally not cost effective to go around saving valves by melting them away from the copper... It takes time, wastes gas, and leaves you with a fitting that is difficult to get cleaned properly for reuse... Also, you use a lot of heat to do it which can result in overheating of packing and washers which then requires repair when you are done... (it can be done without damage but it can be difficult)... If I melt one out, however, I just heat the fitting again, holding the fitting with a vice (or the bottom of my foot ... ) and the pipe with a pair of pliers... Keep constant heat on the fitting and when the pipe begins to free up, it has to be wiggled back and forth until the pipe comes free... Once it is out while the solder is still hot, the fitting can be brushed with a steel brush, but you have to make sure not to brush it toward your EYEBALLS... After it is cooled, you can brush it more until it will fit again... Then it can be refluxed and reused...

WOW, talk about long-winded, but I can't find a way to talk about the correct way of soldering without atleast covering most of the bases...
 
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Old 08-04-03, 07:27 PM
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Ditto what Ragner said.

Only want to add when soldering brass ball valves and or gate valves larger the 1/2", which will take alot more heat then soldering fittings, I find it best to heat one side till solder takes and move the flame to opposite side of the valve.

You can just heat one side of a valve and get the solder to take on the other side, but it takes more time, and could cause overheating to take place, For a DIY he/she should heat both side of a valve if you new to soldering.

I to will never reuse a fitting or used valve, if at all possible, I use no-corrode flux and 95/5 solder.
 
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Old 08-04-03, 08:36 PM
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Oxy-acetylene is indeed overkill for soft soldering. Acetylene and air is still the best bet going. Enough heat, quick in and out. Makes the lead free solders work like the old leaded stuff.
 
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Old 08-05-03, 05:42 AM
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The only time I breal out the Acetylene and air is when I have many, many fittings to do or larger than 3".

Otherwise, MAPP gas and turbo torch. This will do up to 3" copper.

I have used Oxy/Acetylene with a staghorn, but truely overkill even on something as little as 2".

Water soluable flux is just that, water soluable. There was a time when you used this only for brazing, but new improved chemical compositions have been introduced for soft soldering. "Regular" flux is petroleum based. It leaves a residue which should be wiped off after soldering the fitting.

Bottom line read Ragner's and Plumber2000 postings. They won't steer you wrong on this thread.
 
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Old 08-05-03, 06:24 AM
Luciak
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Thumbs up

Thanks for the extraordinarily detailed instructions on soldering copper pipes. I had no idea I was opening up a Pandora's Box when I posted my question!
 
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Old 08-05-03, 04:02 PM
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In case anybody really wants to know, I did use water soluble flux that I got out of a lead free soldering kit I bought at Lowe's.
And I also used a regular propane torch to solder with. Maybe I just used all the wrong equipment when I soldered because I know I did everything the way it supposed to be done.

I would like to know how much time should elapse from the time I put the flame on the joint to the time the solder begins to melt. Even though I didn't time myself while I was soldering, I would guess it took me about 45 seconds to heat up the joint enough to solder it. Is this too long?

In any case, I think I'll just stick with plastic pipe from now on. After all, even though I've soldered plenty of leaky copper joints, I've never glued a leaky joint using plastic.

Robert
 
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Old 08-05-03, 07:58 PM
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Hey LP, don't be so hard on yourself... If you got 70% to 80% of your joints to hold with that water-soluble junk, then you did fine... The same job done with NO-CORRODE or LACO or Oatey flux that is NOT water soluble would not have had those leaks... The water soluble stuff bubbles and pops and burns and beads up and is just not as good as the other... As for timing, I would think that MAPP takes about 12 to 15 seconds to heat up a 3/4" or 1/2" fitting... It does take slightly longer on a BRASS VALVE to copper connection as P2K pointed out and is more important to work the heat around the joint...
 
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Old 04-20-05, 04:53 AM
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I am truly a neophyte in plumbing, but I would like to say that switching from propane to MAPP for any pipe larger than 1/2 inch was a great help in successfully sweating pipes. I wish I had found this forum earlier. I would have saved lots of time and frustration. Also thanks to all who have discussed the different types of flux. I'll toss out the water soluble and get the better one.

My water is from a well. My pipes are 20 year old copper. Am I correct in understanding that my plumbing is a time bomb, that the copper pipes will fail soon and I will have to replace with cpvc?

Great forum. Great advise.
 
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Old 04-20-05, 06:14 AM
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Wink

My water is from a well. My pipes are 20 year old copper. Am I correct in understanding that my plumbing is a time bomb, that the copper pipes will fail soon and I will have to replace with cpvc?
Boy thats the first time I have heard this. I have worked on homes 60 years old with copper and Ok. Yes cement can get the copper pipe. They can get some lime and calcium in them. But Id hold off till something leaks.

Now on the torch. I like and use LP all the time. Have it on all trucks all the time so they have it. Use it with a TurboTorch tip and can even silfos15 on a 1/2" copper line. On a bigger job use Prest-O-lite tank with the turbotorch. And acetylene oxygen to silfos15 5/8" and bigger copper lines for AC.

ED
 
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Old 04-20-05, 07:06 AM
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sweating

My first experience sweating copper was equally frustrating. I have since probably soldered a hundred joints in the last couple of years (just a DIY). In that time, I had one leak, a brass valve which I was worried about damaging the plastic inards and went too gingerly. Now I think sweating is very simple and enjoy doing it. In hindsight, I can blame my early failures on water in the pipe. I don't mean a lot of water either a drip or two a minute or just seeping and your screwed. Now whenever I work with pipes that had water in them recently, i.e. cutting into lines in the basement with 2 floors of piping above, I let the water drain after opening upstairs valves. Once it stops, I'll gingerly heat 6-12" of pipe on each side of the joint to remove the remaining water in the pipes. I'll wait a couple of minutes and try it again, if no steam comes out, I cool the pipe with a wet rag, dry and quickly clean, flux and solder the new joint. If it steams (water slowly seeping back in), I do the bread ball method, jam a dough ball down the pipe, use a little heat to dry the end of the pipe and clean, flux and solder. I use a propane torch and with a big box kit, I think it is oatley flux though and 95/5 solder. This method has always worked well for me and I'm no expert. You should practice with some new fittings and pipe before cutting into your water line. So you can see what it looks like when done correectly, its a thing of beauty to touch the solder to a hot pipe and watch it quickly wick around a joint. Then if you don't see that when working with your pipes you know there is a problem before turning the water back on and having to wait for the system to dry out before you try again. Good luck
 
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