Copper Pipe Fitting Methods Explained
If you will be installing new plumbing in your home, you may need to know proper copper pipe fitting techniques to use when installing copper water piping. There are several methods that can be used to fit copper pipes, and the type of fitting you use will depend on the plumbing application being performed. Therefore, this article will discuss the various ways of making fitting connections with copper plumbing pipe and when they are used.
Copper Soldering or Sweating
Soldering two pieces of copper pipe together using a torch flame and flux is known as copper soldering. However, the process of is also commonly referred to as "sweating" copper. It is called this way because the process involves first heating a joint between two copper pipes and then allowing flux material to melt and fill the joint or seam. When the process is performed properly, the resulting seal in the joint is air and water tight.
The seal created when sweating two pieces of copper type can last for many years and is considered to be permanent. However, the method can only be used with rigid copper pipe and can be used on pieces of flexible or soft copper tubing when great care with the torch is exercised. The process also requires some training and a bit of practice in order to do it correctly.
Compression fittings represent an entirely different approach than sweating or soldering for connecting two pieces of copper pipe. The process involves using a compression ring and nut to create a pressure seal between the piece of copper pipe and the fixture. The compression nut is tightened with a wrench, which results in soft pliable copper expanding and filling the joint in the fixture to create a tight seal.
Compression fittings are much easier to create than the sweating process for copper pipes. On the other hand, compression fittings can lose their ability to keep out air or water over time and may need to be re-tightened or even replaced in some cases. Although a compression fitting is easier to create than a soldered or sweated connection, the process usually takes a considerably longer period of time. Compression fittings can be used on both flexible and rigid types of copper pipe.
Flared fittings for copper pipe are specialty fitting types that can only be applied to soft or flexible copper pipe or tubing. The flared fitting connection type is not suited for use with rigid copper pipes. The hardness of rigid pipe makes it almost impossible to create the bell shaped flare needed to create the connection fitting type.
A flared fitting is created using a forging process that is very different from the soldering or sweating. The fitting is created by using a flare nut to secure a flared tube's tapered end to a tapered fitting. The process is a cold working process wherein the tube is gripped by a special die and a mandrel is forced into the tube to create a flare. Flares are often created at angles of 37 and 45 degrees to produce fitting connections. Flared fittings are sort of esoteric in their design and usage; however, they are also very reliable and are used in mission critical situations or in areas where the fitting will be very difficult to reach for repairs.