I recently fired the contractor who was doing some patio construction for
me. One of the things left was to finish the plumbing from a 1/2" copper
tubing (.032" wall) water supply (which extends upward from the slab) to an
outside sink and hose bib. I had never done copper soldering before, but
the people at Home Depot people said it is simple. I soldered several
connections using the combination flux/solder in paste form, that you apply
with a brush. I applied the solder, assembled the connection, then heated.
Every one of the connections leaked! I decided to go PVC, so I ripped it all
out and used a comperssion fitting to go from copper to PVC. Well, the
compression fitting leaked, too.
I could understand one or two of the solder joints leaking due to my
inexperience, but all of them? Is copper soldering not as simple as I have
been told? Could the solder have been bad? Am I incompetent?
Also, all the remaining copper supply line that sticks out of the slab has a
slight curve to it. Is it impossible to get a good compression connection
if there is any curve in the tubing? I really like to do this kind of small
stuff myself, but maybe I should just give up and call a pro...
The soldering of copper is simple if it is done right.
First clean both the fitting and copper tube. This applies to every joint
Heat the joint until the flux paste is bubbling and keep heat toward the
center of the fitting.
Solder follows the heat. So add the solder to the fitting until it is drawn
into the fitting and a little bb forms.
Then solder other half of the fitting.
Let cool do not move or disturb in any way.
When joint is cool wipe with cotton rag and it should be a top quality
Practice if you have an extra few pieces to work with.
Believe in yourself, control your heat and everything should turn out fine.
Plumbing is not an exact science.
You left ONE thing out of your description, and if you also left it out
of what you did, then that's probably why the joints leaked.
That was to CLEAN (with abrasive paper or wire brushes) the outside ends
of the tubing AND the insides of the fittings just before you applied
If you DIDN'T do that and didn't get the mating surfaces nice and
pink-clean, that's probably why you didn't get decent joints.
Probably so, but inexperienced would be a more polite term.
And, we were all incompetant in everything save sucking on a tit when we
entered this world.
If it's curved enough to be "oval" in cross section, you're likely to
have a problem even if you got King Kong to tighten the nut on the
compression fitting for you
You could try twisting a length of teflon pipe sealing tape into a
"string" and wrapping 1-1/2 to 2 turns of that around the pipe behind
the ferrule so that it gets squished down inside the nut when you
tighten it. That form of "packing" has worked for me more than once,
because it seals to all three things, the pipe, the ferrule and the
inside of the nut. YMMV, and my advice is guaranteed for exactly as much
as you just paid for it here. <G>
I really like to do this kind of small
Any comments by me encouraging you on would likely bring the wrath of
much of the group down upon me. Plumbing does have important health
implications that the average person never knows or thinks about, so
learn before you do.
My name is Jeff Wisnia and I approved this message....
Sweating pipe is not hard. But you really have to get a feel for it.
Most of these plumbers around here have hit thousands and thousands of
joints with that torch. At this point, they take it for granted.
If you're leaking everywhere, yeah - you should hire a pro. Find a
plumber to help you on the side. Pay him well and not only will he
help you out, he'll even teach you some of those trade secrets (like
you can't sweat wet pipe....like don't hold your torch DIRECTLY under
your work....like make sure there is nothing flammable nearby....like
yes, the pool of solder is shimmery and pretty - but don't pick it
In my original post forgot to mention that I did clean all inside and
outside surfaces with steel wool. Thanks for the responses. Because there
is not a lot of pipe left sticking out of the slab, there is not much room
for error. I think I will call a pro to finish it up. I can practice
soldering joints on some other project.
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