Soldering Copper Pipes

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I'm trying to decide whether this would be a good time to learn how to solder copper pipes. Here's the scenario:
Point your forefingers at each other, similar to the way they'd end up if they were stuck into one of those Chinese handcuffs kids get at birthday parties. Now, move them apart about a foot. They represent two 3/4" pipes facing each other, on the basement ceiling. Right now, that gap between them is occupied by a water pressure regulator I need to replace. The regulator has female fittings molded into its housing, and the pipes have male fittings. The pipes continue UNINTERRUPTED for 10 feet on either side, so I'm guessing the pipes were not rotated into the regulator. Rather, I think the regulator's female fittings may be threaded in such a way that rotating the whole regulator tightens both sides at once.
Or: the male pipe fittings, which are separate pieces from the pipes themselves, were cranked into place, and then those fittings were welded to the pipes.
Based on what I see, anything that would need to be soldered is plenty far away from anything heat sensitive, like beams, wires, etc.
My question (which requires psychic powers to answer):
On a "trickiness for beginners" scale of 1 (easy) to 10 (check your flood insurance), where does it sound like this job falls? A 3x margin of error is acceptable for all guesses, and horror stories are more than welcome. Bring it on!
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While you could learn to solder (its not difficult) the easiest way would be to get some of the plastic compression fittings.
There are 3 things about soldering pipes. Clean the copper very bright , both pieces. Absolutly no water near the joint. No movement of the pipes once the heat is removed untuil the solder has setup.
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No water. Sounds like either:
1) Use the Bernz-o torch to heat away any remaining drops, let pipes cool, stick finger in to check. 2) Shove in a tampon? :-)
My goal here (as you might imagine), is twofold:
1) Save a few million dollars by not having to hire a plumber. Two of them have quoted about $200-250, including the new regulator, which I've found locally for $40 (Home Depot) to $50 (excellent plumbing supply). I'm envisioning a plumber finishing the whole job in roughly 11 minutes, blindfolded.
2) If it would take a plumber 11 minutes, I'd be happy if it took me 4 hours the first time. Being realistic here, accounting for "paranoia time" (going down in the basement for 3 hours afterward, checking for drips), and perhaps a total of 3 screwups. Maybe a half hour to practice on some pieces of scrap pipe.
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If you decide to solder them yourself here are a couple things I would like to add to previous posts. 1. Dry fit everything first 2. Clean all fittings until bright, 3. USE FLUX, on all joints (tinning flux is best) 4. Don't use acid core solder. 5. Keep a heat shield and fire extinguisher handy.

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Doug Kanter wrote:

Extremely unlikely it's threaded that way.

More likely they were soldered onto the pipes. And that coulf have been done before they got screwed into the regulator if the regulator was being installed as part of the original plumbing.

Sounds almost trivial, especially if the new regulator spans the same length as the old one. Just shut off the water and cut the pipes on both sides of the regulator about 6 inches away from it.
Remove the two pieces from the old regulator and screw them into the new regulator, using teflon tape or paste pipe dope on the threads.
You can put it back into place using compression couplings if you don't want to bother learning to solder for just one job. If you want to "do it right" and solder things back together, then get two copper "slip couplings" and solder them over the cuts, being careful to locate the cuts in the center of the couplings by measurement or marking.
There are plenty of web sites which can teach you all about soldering copper pipes.
One last thought, there are "no heat" epoxies made specifically for joining copper piping without needing soldering gear. You could use that stuff to fasten the slip couplings over the cuts in the pipes. I've never used it but I've heard nothing but good comments about it from several folks, including some pros.
If the new regulator is shorter or longer than the old, you may have to do a little more work to put it in, but nothing that takes a rocket scientist.
HTH,
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)
  Click to see the full signature.
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I'd rate it as an 8 the first joint, a 3 for those following. Buy a couple of feet of tubing, a few fittings, and practice. Better to practice on a mockup rather than the real deal. Look up a "how-to" on soldering and give it a try.
--
Ed
http://pages.cthome.net/edhome/



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3/4" can be tricky. If you go for solder, I recommend MAPP rather than propane. If you have done it poorly, it will leak, and you will just have to do it again until it doesn't leak. It wouldn't be my choice for a first project, but it is doable. (Unless your shutoff isn't solid; then it would be a real bear. Any way you can check that before proceeding?)
I have never used a compression fitting, at least not a 3/4" one, so I can't comment on them.
Neither have I used http://www.onwardsales.com/pages/1/index.htm It sounds pretty idiot proof and claims it will work on dripping pipes. I intend on buying some and trying it out; but maybe you can be a pioneer.
I have used an epoxy sold in Lowes. It is very easy to use, and certainly cheaper than soldering for a single project, but it also requires dry pipes.
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I have used the brass compression adapters where there is a shutoff valve that leaks through and they work great. If you do that, screw the adapters into the regulator first. Use pipe dope joint compound or teflon tape on the male threads only and scre them in with a wrench on the adapter and a wrench on the close end of the regulator. Do NOT put the wrench on the far end of the regulator, you will ruin the regulator. After the adapters are attached to the regulator, put the whole thing on the copper tubing. Use pipe dope compound on the compression nuts and rings. If you don't use dope, you will have to tighten it so much to stop the leaks that you may split the rings or compression nuts. Good Luck.
Stretch
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Right on with using MAPP. For drinking water you should use 95/5 solder. This requires the use of MAPP. Not using it will just waste your time.
If this was for hot water heating, 50/50 is still used and propane work just fine.
Tom
P.S. Please note that when using any solder and pipes overhead make sure to either watch your arms or cover them with something. (this really goes for anything else that is attached to you) Solder heated up with MAPP or Propane hurts like a bitch and leaves some interesting marks on your arms.... Yea, i've learned that lession the hard way! OUCH! 3 scars on my arm and counting...
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

time.
work
arm
It doesn't hurt near as much as popping molten slag while arc-welding.
Joe
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Doug Kanter wrote:

Not a snowballs chance in hell, comes to mind

Pretty close

Or use compression fittings

In a basement with water dripping from the scale in the pipes and you probably not having a oxy - acetylene torch. (I'm not going to discuss the bread trick here.) Your chances of success are not real good. Check with a real plumbing supply store for compression fittings, it would probably help if you bought the regulator there too, and not at the big box store. Dave
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So....the Bernzo-o torches are good for what? <fill in the blank here>
And yeah....if I do this, I'd buy ALL of it from the real plumbing store. I learned that lesson 20 years ago in my first house.
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Doug Kanter wrote:

For easy dry joints. As I recall you are working in a basement, water will drip down from the upstairs pipes and ruin your joint. You just won't be able to get it hot enough. BTW one thing I haven't seen mentioned. Open a valve to atmosphere somewhere or pressure build up from heat will blow the solder out of the joint.

Dave
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I'll have to check out the water residue issue as much as conceivably possible, then. This pipe makes a straight run on one side to the water meter and main shutoff. At that junction, there's just one pipe, an outside hose faucet, which comes straight off the meter. That feed is about 6" lower than the one I'm referring to. On the other side of the regulator, the other pipe goes to bathroom, kitchen, and what may solve this problem: The basement laundry sink. When I was changing washers in the outside hose faucet and laundry sink a month ago, I found that the main shutoff worked really well. After I opened a few faucets upstairs and downstairs and waited a few minutes, there was no drip whatsoever.
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This whole process could be a snap. If there is any water near your joints you will not be able get the pipe hot enough.
Benzomatic torches are only good for very small jobs, 3/4" might be doable since you're inside. MAPP gas is a good alternative. But an air breathing acetylene torch would be better.
cheers Bob
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Oh, jeez, he doesn't need acetylene for this, for cryin' out loud, he's just soldering copper, not welding steel. A propane torch works just fine on 3/4" copper.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Nobody ever left footprints in the sands of time by sitting on his butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
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wrote:

I think the jury has spoken. If it doesn't work, It's not as if I'm out a whole lot of money for new tools. The work area's totally clear of anything that could be damaged by a leak, even a big one. I already own everything except the torch and the regulator itself. If it doesn't work....hello plumber.
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Go for it. It isn't brain surgery. Just buy a few extra fittings, and a couple extra feet of pipe, so you have something to practice on before you tackle the real thing.
One thing I'm not sure I've seen anyone mention yet in this thread: apply heat to the _fitting_only_, not to the pipe. The idea is to expand the fitting slightly, to make a larger gap for solder to flow into -- so that when it cools and shrinks, you have a tight and leakproof joint. There's enough contact between the fitting and the pipe that the pipe will get hot enough to melt the solder even without being heated directly by the torch.
Then apply solder to the _pipe_ just outside the joint, but not to the fitting. If you have everything cleaned, fluxed, and heated right, the solder will melt and flow into the joint.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Nobody ever left footprints in the sands of time by sitting on his butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
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On Sun, 20 Mar 2005 21:01:05 GMT, "Doug Kanter" <a:

=================Maybe I missed something but solding copper water lines is not hard...quite easy.... clean the joints....make sure no water is present...heat the bottom of the joint..apply solder at the top...solder will flow right in and around the entire pipe....
Mapp gas is what I would use...
Bob Griffiths
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wrote:

Bob, you said it all - but you forgot the flux ! .................
Doug, this is an easy fix.If you don't miss a step.
compression fittings suck...
Hard to say what you mean by a beginner...
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