Do you consider yourself handy or a DIY enthusiast? Then you don’t mind fixing minor plumbing issues when they come along, which is great.
If you plan on doing any projects that involve metal plumbing (pipes and fittings), then you’ll need to know how to solder. Unlike plastic pipes like PVC that can be glued together, metal pipes need a solid connect.
What is soldering?
Soldering is a process for connecting two pieces in metal. In plumbing, this is done to create a permanent, watertight seal between a pipe and fitting. It can be used to repair a pipe, install new fixtures, and many other purposes.
The soldering process uses a torch (usually powered by propane) and solder wire. The wire is placed where the pipe and fitting meet, and the heat of the torch is used to melt the wire so that is forms a solid joint.
Soldering copper versus brass
If you’re going to tackle a plumbing project that requires soldering, you should be aware that the process can vary based on the materials you’re working on. When it comes to plumbing, the two most common metals you’ll come across are copper and brass.
Copper is usually used in pipes because it’s easy to work with and corrosion-resistant. On the other hand, many fittings are made of brass for extra strength and lower cost. You can also find copper fittings. So it’s important to know which material you’re using because it will affect how you solder the connections.
The overall technique of soldering is very similar. Whether you’re working with copper or brass plumbing, here are the general steps you’ll want to follow:
- Clean the end of the pipe
- Use a deburring tool to create smooth edges
- Use a brush to apply flux to the end of the pipe
- Push fitting on to the pipe
- Pre-heat or sweat the fitting
- Apply solder and heat with the torch
- Clean off excess solder with a rag
However, soldering with brass can be more challenging, take additional time, or require different tools. Here are some good tips to keep in mind:
- Brass will require higher heat – some plumbers use MAPP (methylacetylene and propadiene) gas instead of propane for this reason
- More flux or soldering paste may be needed
- Make sure the fitting valve is open to avoid a pressure buildup that can cause a leak
When to call in the experts
Soldering can be a handy skill to know, but it’s not the easiest DIY process in the world. If you’re unsure or want to make sure the job is done right the first time, the name to trust is Reichelt Plumbing.