How to Repair a Copper Pipe

If you get very deeply into plumbing repair, you may get involved with pipes. The materials used include copper, plastic, galvanized steel, and cast iron. The type you have in your home is probably governed by what your local plumbing codes find acceptable, so we won’t cover all pipes known to man.

Copper – One that is most prominent in water supply lines is copper, which comes in two varieties: rigid and flexible tubing. Our favorite way to join rigid copper pipe to the many fittings is a process called “sweat soldering.” The tools and materials you need include copper pipe, fittings of the same diameter, paste flux, a roll of solid core wire solder, emery cloth, and a propane torch. All of these things are available at your hardware store or home center. Here are the basic steps:

copper pipe repair How to Repair a Copper Pipe

1. A straight cut at the end of copper pipe gets the best fit. A tube cutter gives the best results. A hacksaw would be our second choice.
2. After cutting, remove any burrs. Most tube cutters have a pointed blade that deburrs the cut.

The surfaces of both the pipe and fitting must be shiny clean. A strip of emery cloth works well for outside. A special wire brush is best for inside a fitting, but you can wrap the emery cloth around a finger. After polishing, don’t touch the surfaces.

3. Coat these surfaces with a paste type flux.

4. Make sure the parts fit.

5. Now comes the fun part. Light your propane torch. Play the flame over the fitting but don’t bring the solder into the act until the metal is hot. Then you still don’t play the flame on the solder but when you touch the tip of the solder against the joint, the solder will melt and be sucked into the joint by capillary action. This happens even if the joint is positioned so the solder would have to travel upward. It is almost like magic!

Tips

In an actual plumbing situation, you may still have water in the pipes. This moisture can turn to steam and make for a weak joint. Roll a piece of bread into a tight blob that you can push into the pipe. This acts as a dam and keeps the water away from your work. Then when the work is complete and the water supply is restored, the water will dissolve the bread and the particles will come out at the nearest faucet.


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