How to Take Apart a Soldered Copper Pipe Fitting

copper pipes
  • 1 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
Heat-resistant cloth
Propane torch
Water pump pliers
Emery cloth

If you’ve soldered a copper pipe fitting and it develops a leak, you’ll need to take it apart in order to fix it. This isn’t a huge job. If you’ve been able to solder the copper pipe fitting together you’ll be able to take it apart. It only takes a few minutes to separate a soldered copper pipe fitting from the copper pipe. Be aware, however, that you do need to pay attention to detail.

Step 1 - Turn Off Water

Before you begin to separate the copper pipe fitting, you need to turn off the water to the house and make sure there’s no water in the line where you have to separate the fitting. Run the appropriate faucet until no more water comes through.

You can also empty all the pipes in the house running faucets in the upstairs bathroom and in the basement. Keep them going until no more water flows, then turn off.

Step 2 - Propane

Position a heat-resistant cloth carefully behind the copper pipe fitting. It needs to be large enough so any heat or flame can’t reach the wall or wood beyond the pipe. The correct placement of this is vital; it’s worth taking a couple of extra minutes to ensure it’s just right.

Step 3 - Propane Torch

working with a propane torch

You need to melt the solder before you can separate the copper pipe fitting. To do this, light the propane torch and run it all over the soldered area. Don’t keep it focused in a single spot. Instead you should move it around and keep going until the solder begins to melt. Hold the torch so the tip of the flame is against the copper pipe fitting.

Step 4 - Separate the Fitting

When the solder has melted, you can separate the fitting from the pipe. Take your water pump pliers and put them on the fitting (not on the pipe). Move and pull the copper pipe fitting slowly and gently until it eases away from the copper pipe. Don’t rush this stage. It’s better to take a little more time and make certain it comes away as cleanly as possible.

Step 5 - Remove Old Solder

soldering a copper pipe

Hold the copper pipe fitting with the water pump pliers and run the lit propane torch over the fitting to melt an old solder. When it’s all melted, wipe it away with a dry cloth. Check the copper pipe for old solder and use the propane torch and a rag there if it’s necessary.

Step 6 - Clean the Fitting

Now that the solder has been removed, you need to clean the surface of the copper pipe fitting so it’s ready for more solder. Rub it inside and out with the emery cloth. This will brighten and roughen the surface so the new solder will grip properly. Wipe away any dust to leave a completely clean surface. Do the same on the outside of the copper pipe.