Sweating copper is a
pain in the neck for most home owners. But its worth it! You can do
things with copper impossible by any other means. In old office
buildings I've taken 1 1/2 in. malleable copper tubing, run fifty foot
coils through a rolling mill so it's less than the thickness of the 3/8
to 7/16 floor lathing. I've run it under hand inlayed floors fit for a
palace, insulated it with "Sockz cloth" at a dollar an inch, so heat
wouldn't crack or separate the inlays, reformed sized and broached the
ends to fit standard 3/4 in copper fittings and used a reducing fitting
to 1/2 so someone in a wheelchair could have a toilet where he wanted
it. A drain was handy but no water.
your repair copper and bronze fittings in a Tupper type plastic box
with some old chopped up newspaper. If your stuff is dirty and
corroded, in half a gallon of boiling hot water put one quart of white
distilled vinegar, throw about a pound of your fittings and return to a
boil, then simultaneously add 1/4 cup of Arm & Hammer Sodium
Bicarbonate and 1/4 cup of Salt. This is going to boil like crazy so
best to do it in a large bucket. Using a paint stick stir like mad! add
more Sodium Bicarbonate and salt checking the color of your fittings.
Once they are clean rinse with clean water dry in shop towels and lay
out to sun dry. Whatever you do, if you have cleaned any threaded
copper fittings rub the threads (screw in - screw out) with some steel
wool "0" is a good choice.
begin your project, draw it out exactly, make sure you have more "L",
"T", hoppers and "45░ L" and "geegaw" fittings than required. Precut as
much of the rigid tubing as you can and assemble those parts of it
first. I assure you it is much more pleasant to sit at a picnic table
drinking an icy cold Budweiser sweating copper like a jeweller making a
yes Ma'm... I would like another Budweiser, thank you! and thanks, your
brownies are fantastic! Hummmm better to labor so than it is to labor
long unseen, misunderstood and not appreciated under the stinking cold
wet foundation of someone's house... where only God knows what has
already know the first rule of sweating copper.
when you can.
does it mean to pre-sweat. It means immediately after you've cleaned
your fittings either old or new, you drop them, except for all the
threaded ones of course, into a ripe solder pot
. To know when to drop, you rake the top of the solder pot, there
should be a film of rosin on top. Gaze at the mirror for a few seconds,
if it is wet with rosin and does not discolor in 5 seconds but
discolors within 20 seconds you're ready. Drop in your parts, stir with
due diligence and kick on the afterburner for more heat. Keep adding
resin as the mirror clouds. Dig down into the lead and stir the parts
bring them to the surface to meet the resin, observe the mirror every
15 seconds. You want to go against the grain here by using Rosin ( or
Resin) instead of acid flux. Don't forget to stir. In a pinch you can
get Rosin at the pharmacy. Next thing after about five minutes of
increased very high heat you want to pull all these puppies out of this
very hot pot and with considerable care violently shake off all the
excess solder. This is best done in a wire mesh stainless steel basket.
It is very important that the fittings are covered with a thin layer of
solder. If they have globs and stick together, you need to turn up the
heat and do it again. Please be careful around a pot of hot metals.
Please shake hot solder neither upon your person or your clothing. You
have been warned.
design of a copper water system you should make a low point (drain)
where the water goes into the heater that's the key. Somewhere close by
there should be H & C Drains which are physically the absolute
lowest points in your entire copper plumbing system. You should create
vents at the highest points in your system, you may create additional
vents in long runs which might not drain well without air. In my
Library behind " The Letters of Horace Walpole" there are two little
1/2 in. gate valves that vent both H & C to the air,
facilitating the draining process. Their risers go to the roof so
accidental actions do not result in water in the house. Drains and
vents help you greatly when you have to repair or modify a copper
installation. Do consider too, making close union fittings on valves.
Always use gate valves which aren't likely to wear out. Gate valves
should be either open or closed and nothing in-between. Do not use a
Gate valve to control the flow of water. If you keep a spare unit, when
a Gate valve begins to leak you can unscrew the union fittings and
replace that puppy in five minutes. No solder no sweat! All I've got to
say about washer valves is that I don't like them. In my opinion valves
should not be used to moderate the flow of water, that's what faucets
Sweat copper. Clean the ends of rigid copper with a stainless steel
wool rubdown. Either paint or dip the surface in a pudding or liquid
resin flux put a cold torch (propane) to the largest piece close to but
not on top of the place you want to join do not heat a previously
joined fitting. When hot wet it with lead. wasting no time clean it
with steel wool "#0" is good for this.
pre-tinned part in a pair of slip-joints, align them as close as you
can. Heat both pieces by switching quickly one to the other. When you
see all the lead melted continue to heat for 15 seconds, then gently
join the pieces. They should go together like Romeo and Juliet! Once
joined, continue to heat for 15 seconds. Now take a piece of bar solder
and continuing the heat rub this against the joint. When the joint will
not accept solder you're done. Never under any circumstances cool a
sweat copper joint with a wet rag or with water. Don't move anything
until the solder has set otherwise you'll likely have a leak.
than ideal circumstances when you can not control the flow of leaking
water you'll not sweat a darn thing. I've used the skin off KFC
original recipe, KFC biscuits, white bread, or toilet tissue to plug a
pipe so I could sweat the job. Bread is the best as it readily breaks
down when water pressure is applied. Before you apply pressure be sure
you remove or bypass all water filters including faucet strainers. Once
the water has run sufficiently to clear out anything that might be in
the pipes, return your filters to normal and put the strainers back in.
fittings are available which will rigidly suspend copper plumbing 4
inches from the wall when copper is exposed as with heating and
radiators or in institutional plumbing where there are service
corridors and inspection ways. These fittings facilitate the
modification or repair of copper lines since they greatly reduce the
incidence of damage to paint, woodwork or wallboards due to accidental
you're building a new home, renovating or just fixin' up, you should
seriously consider copper. Copper will supply clean water, it won't
corrode or rot, is easy to repair if installed properly and is more
resistant to freezing than PVC. Copper is malleable and can be formed
into complicated shapes when the job requires. Copper will do things
impossible with PVC or Iron.
for Mr. Fix-It. if you're 30 and building your home with Iron pipe,
just remember in most parts of the States, in about 35 years you'll
probably have to re-tube the house. That means when you're 65, do you
really want to take on that job and if not, do you want to pay for it?
With copper you'll never have to re-tube.
been a lot of exposure about lead in drinking water plumbing. Proper
application of solder to copper does not result in a lead problem. The
key is this, wet the joint but don't make it drip. Be easy with your
site! Hi Good site, but I disagree with one of your
statements: "With copper you'll never have to re-tube. "
This just isn't true. In my experience (as a plumber in the UK),
untouched copper pipework will generally leak within 15 years of
installation. This is most often caused by flux residues on or near
soldered joints, but in all pipework the copper gradually wears away
and a leak can occur anywhere.
The degree and type wear differs, of course, between cold supplies and,
for example, wet central heating pipes. In the former the minerals
passing through the pipe acts abrasively, and in the latter the
repeated expansion and contraction causes work hardening of the copper
and also stresses the joints.
Another factor is that few installations not lie untouched for 15 years
- additional runs and styling changes in basins and such like will
require joints between new and old pipework. If the old pipe is very
old then it is invariably very thin, and when nearing its retirement it
doesn't always withstand the forces involved in making a joint.
Just thought you'd like to know :) Kind regards Tim 29 Mar 2005
More from Bill on Sweating Copper
I know where you are coming
from. Most copper plumbing is sweated with acid flux which leaves a
corrosive residue both in the solder and on the surface. Even if you
clean the joints with bicarbonate of soda, you still do not get all of
the acid and, yes those joints will fail. That is why I recommend the
use of Rosin or Resin flux.
On the other matter of the
erosion of pipes internally, this is generally not a problem Stateside
as we have very high standards regarding the contents of the Municipal
water sources. But, in rural or unincorporated areas which do not
maintain a competent Water Control Board, when the water source is not
managed by a public utility or is a private well, and you have no way
to control the mineral content or the PH, (relative acidity) then the
problems you describe are exactly precise regardless of the flux used.
-- "Bill McCaslin"
you are recommending 80/20 lead solder that is illegal in most states
except the places where there so stupid from lead brain damage. dude!!!
-- mark plantxinfo
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