Introduction: Soldering Quick Tips

Picture of Soldering Quick Tips

Soldering tips can make a BIG difference.

...the difference between getting frustrated and having an easier time or

...the difference between burning down the house or NOT!!!

If you've watched my other tutorials you know I LOVE PEX.

But sometimes you'll have to solder in fittings.

So today's quick soldering tips will hopefully help make this process smarter and better.

Here are the supplies you need

  • Bernzomatic Map Gas ($16)
  • Berzomatic Trigger Start ($50)
  • Ridgid No. 15 Pipe Cutter ($31
  • )Fitting Wire Brush ($11)
  • Emery Cloth ($3)
  • Laco Flux ($14)
  • Flux Brush ($4)
  • Silvabrite 100 Lead Free Solder ($34)
  • 1/2″ Copper Pipe ($10)
  • 1/2″ 90 Degree Elbows ($10 for Bag of 10)
  • Heat Shield ($15)
  • Safety Glasses ($5)
  • Fire Extinguisher ($30)...yes, it's not a bad idea to have this...just in case

Step 1: Choose Your Torch

Picture of Choose Your Torch

MAPP gas burns hotter than propane.

I've tried both types of gas and prefer MAPP but maybe you disagree. Let me know in the comments.

That said, if you want to spend less time heating up the pipes and exposing the surroundings to a flame, MAPP is the way to go.

Btw, it’s called MAPP but MAP-Pro is on the canister below.

Step 2: Get a Trigger Starter

Picture of Get a Trigger Starter

Bernzomatic makes a great trigger starter for MAP-Pro canisters.

I’d recommend getting one of these because it makes soldering easier and safer.

The flame is easily controlled by simply pressing or depressing the starter button.

And no, this tutorial isn't sponsored by Berzomatic, I just liked their trigger starter.

How should you prep copper pipe BEFORE soldering?

Step 3: Cut and Debur Copper Pipe

Picture of Cut and Debur Copper Pipe

Cutting copper pipe is easy.

Both the Ridgid No. 15 or AutoCut tool are great for cutting copper pipe.

The only downside to the AutoCut tool is that it doesn't have a deburring tool like the Ridgid No. 15.

The downside the the No. 15 is that it's big and doesn't fit in small spaces.

Pick the tool you think you'll use most. Or if you're like me you get both...I love having tools that work.

Debur the inside of the cut copper pipe, this removes shards of copper leftover from the cutting.

Use either a wire brush or emery cloth to clean the inside and outside of the pipe. Use the wire brush to clean the inside of fittings, e.g. 90 degree elbows or T-fittings.

Step 4: Apply Flux to Copper Pipe

Picture of Apply Flux to Copper Pipe

Apply a thin layer of flux to the outside of the pipe.

And inside of the fitting.

You don’t need a ton of flux, just enough to cover the surface of the pipe and fitting.

Inspect the pipe and fitting to make sure none of the brush hairs are on them.

A single brush hair can ruin your soldering job…darn hairs!!! How do you approach the actual soldering?

Step 5: Time to Solder

Soldering isn’t hard…after you practice.

My biggest recommendation is to practice somewhere safe before trying to solder inside a wall or ceiling.

Buy 10 fittings and some copper pipe. Setup a little practice station outside and have at it.

That way, you’ll get familiar with your torch and won’t risk burning down the house on the first try.

I like to heat up the pipe for a few seconds then apply heat behind the fitting.

That way, the solder will be drawn into the fitting/pipe connection.

Check out my video for the quick tips.

Now your turn.

What do you think

Are you more comfortable with the idea of soldering after this tutorial?

Let me know down in the comments.

Also, if you have a preference in terms of solder, flux or torch share that in the comments as well.

I believe that having the right tools make a BIG difference.

If you’ve found a soldering setup that works for you share it below.

Make it a great day,



volcan01 (author)2016-07-24

Brass ball valves just take patience, the brass takes much longer to heat. I always tried to solder the valve on the pressure side of the fitting first, (with the water off) and the handle in the open position, facing downstream. Because the brass takes longer to heat, and any water in the tubing will be drawn to the heat. If the valve is horizontal, I started at the bottom of the fitting, with the flame heating the back of the valve and touching the solder to the joint periodically. when the solder is sucked into the fitting, move the torch and solder slowly around the valve to get a good even bead of solder around the joint. Close the valve and solder the other side. when it cools naturally, turn on water to check for leaks With a vertical valve, keep the valve open, make sure the water level is at least twice the valve size from the joint. If you continue to get water rising into the pipe, the bread trick works great, (white bread only, no crust), or you can but a jet sweat ( brand name, but also sold under many other different names) from your local hardware or plumbing supply store. I also had a turkey baster with about 12" of micro drip line attached to the end and sucked the water out with that. solder the pressure side first, the the down stream side. be careful when doing the bottom of the valve, as it's very easy to miss a small spot. Use a small mirror to inspect your work. If you get drips, you are either not moving the solder and torch fast enough, and excess solder is dripping down, or that the valve, or fitting is to hot and expelling the solder. when you have completed each solder joint, wipe the joint with a DRY cotton cloth, quickly, to give the joint a good clean look. As a reminder, when you clean the joints, do not put your fingers on any cleaned or fluxed surfaces, as the oils and dirt from your hands very well could cause the solder not to take,

h2ohues (author)2016-07-23

Do you have any tips for soldering bigger items like a ball valve? I find these very hard to solder while soldering small items like tees and elbows are easy.

RobertH25 (author)2016-07-21

There are times in which one is unable to remove all water from the pipe under repair.

An old plumber showed me how to solder with a __little__ water in the pipe NOT with full pressure turned on but residual water after the supply has been turned off

Anyway, he got a slice of bread and stuffed it in the pipe a couple of inches above the joint that he was replacing. Then, using MAPP gas (propane and butane do not burn hot enough to do the job before the bread melts) he put the new joint on and reconnected the plumbing. After the water supply was turned on, the "melted" bread came out (this case was a toilet water supply) in the toilet tank. No leaks and a cheap fix for what, to me, was a problem above my skill set.

Hope this helps...

wizard124 (author)RobertH252016-07-21

The old timers always provide the best knowledge that helps getting the job done. I wish I knew about this a month ago when I was trying to solder some some pipes where I couldn't drain the residual water. I was able to get the pipes soldered but there was a lot of cursing and yelling in the process.

Thanks for your tip!

padro641 (author)wizard1242016-07-22

Also you can use a shopvac on your hosebib and any faucets nearby left open then if you have either residual water or a shutoff problem have an assistant man the shopvac drawing any water away from what you,re soldeing

IkeB2 (author)RobertH252016-07-21

Thanks for that tip! Agreed it's a frustrating experience when there's even a bit of water close to the joint. I typically use a shark connector for basement runs that can't be drained to a lower level but I'll have to try this next time!

mikedownunder (author)2016-07-22

When cleaning the copper pipe, I have always used coarse wire wool. It is available in most hardware stores.

ShackledFreedom (author)2016-07-22

As a jeweler, keeping even fingerprints off the piece is important. My biggest hurdle, until I discovered it, was thinking the piece was clean, when it wasn't. Don't know how finicky plumbing is.

85rocco (author)2016-07-22

The torch you recommend is an excellent choice. I've got the same torch, for many years I used an inexpensive propane, they work well enough but the trigger start MAP torch is much nicer to use, I'm never going back.

MikeC273 (author)2016-07-22

And this old plumber would like to add if your cutting copper in tighter spaces use the rigid line of mini cutters e.g.the 101 will cut up to 1'' pipe and ALWAYS wear leather gloves!

RickO8 (author)2016-07-22

Weller not seller.. Meh spellcheck

RickO8 (author)2016-07-22

SeamusFrederick... I prefer the brand Hakko. You could also buy a seller in Amazon as well. Most important feature would be adjustable temperature and the ability to use different sized tips

Flevine50 (author)2016-07-22

I'm an old biz for over 40 years. Make sure there is an opening in the system, a valve for example. When heating anything, pressure will increase. If there isn't ant way to relieve that pressure, it will blow out through the joint you are soldering, especially on larger pipes.

wingerr (author)2016-07-22

Should note the need to use lead free solder for potable water pipes used for drinking, as opposed to pipes for toilets, as lead can leach out into the drinking water.

kingandjeri50 (author)2016-07-21

btw- if you are soldering a pipe that's very near a wall, bend a "u" at the end of your solder so you can reach behind the pipe to apply the solder evenly.

GordonS12 (author)kingandjeri502016-07-21

it is also not a bad idea to put a heat shield between any studs and your flame. I'm just saying.

GordonS12 (author)2016-07-21

My best advice has always been to heat the joint to the point that you see alot (ALOT) Let me put that another way ( A whole lot of smoke). That temperature is right that that flux will suck that solder in any which direction in needs to go (in, out, backwards, upside down). It has always been foolproof for me. It is like they figured it out to a science. A whole lot of smoke from the flux equals the right temperature. I do not claim to be an expert but that has never failed me. (ever) (a lot)

Drake88 (author)2016-07-21

Read a few of the comments and agree with most and the instructable. One thing I do use that I didn't see anyone comment on is a butane pencil torch for those really tight spaces where getting the solder AND the torch in is just too tight. I generally heat the pipe with a mapp-gas torch, then switch to the pencil torch for the actual deed. The pencil torch I have has an auto-light piezoelectric button like most pocket lighters use(in fact, I can replace it with them). I've had it for years, my father gave it to me, so I have no idea how old it is - but it's been around for a long time, all the ID marks are worn off.

billfarr (author)2016-07-21

No one seems to mention using a heat sink "simply a wet cloth wrapped around the pipe so that you are not trying to heat the whole pipe and wrap the just soldered joint so that you don't cause a leak when you solder the second side of the joint. This also makes the chances of an accidental burn by touching that REALLY hot pipe 8in from the joint. Remember that whole pipe will be HOT for longer than you expect. Yes I speak from experience.

SteveV15 (author)2016-07-21

When soldering, remember solder flows toward the hottest point - so as other have said heat the joint and then apply the solid solder and let it flow into the joint. When you solder a coupling, elbow, or tee, make sure the fitting and not the pipe is the last part to receive the heat, then the solder will flow into the joint, and not down the pipe.

IkeB2 (author)2016-07-21

1. Agreed WRT to MAPP gas. Much better for heavy-duty jobs with much less heat conduction because job is done faster. More care must be taken not to burn paste before solder can sweat joint though.

2. From a safety aspect, you should mention the danger of burning nearby joists etc. I use a piece of tin on the backside of the flame application to shield the flame from wood (or any other flammable members).Keep a squeezable water bottle handy in case charring can't be avoided. Or just use a sharkbite if too difficult to avoid charring. A bit more expensive but not as expensive as a fire!

3. I love those pipe cutters that look like a cylinder with a slot cut in the side (sorry don't recall brand name). Just place over the pipe which fits into the slot, turn the cutter by twisting around the pipe. A few turns and presto! I have both the 1/2" and 3/4" version. Much easier to use in tight spaces.

4. I use a separate de-burring tool, one that has a little cutter offset from rotating axis in the handle. A couple of turns and burr is gone.

5. Paste brush? What are you a sissy? :P Just a dab on my pinky and that does the inside (after removing oxide of course). I always prep the insides first (esp for assemblies that are done on the work table) and then outside with another finger dab, immediately then mating the joints so no contaminating dirt can inadvertently get picked up by the paste.

SeamusFrederick (author)2016-07-20

Thanks for the tips! Any suggestions on what soldering iron to get when working with PCBs?

Jimaudio (author)SeamusFrederick2016-07-21

I bought a cheap iron on ebay and it lasted about 3.5 hours.

I purchased a Weller WLC-100 for around $ 35.00. It has variable temp and has proved very durable. I often restore vintage audio equipment where iron is on for 6 or more hours at a time and so far has lasted 2 years (must replace tips occasionally).

Start with a 20-25 watt soldering iron-it should cost about $15. And be very sure to use only rosin-core solder on electronic stuff. Plumbing solder will ruin your electronics. Click the link to learn more.

Jimaudio (author)2016-07-21

I have used Propane and Mapp both. did not notice a notable difference but Propane is cheaper. Ensuring the joint is roughed up clean and dry is the most important thing. And uh. don't forget the flux.

JUANKERR (author)2016-07-21

My Rothenberger torch looks identical to yours and, yes, it is very good.

gizmologist (author)2016-07-21

Have a metal cookie sheet handy to use as a heat shield behind the pipe so you don't set fire to the wall.

Man Up (author)2016-07-21

Key points - for a proper solder joint, the heat that melts the solder should come from the piping and fittings themselves. Don't apply heat directly to solder; if you remove flame from the joint, then touch it with solder, the solder should immediately turn liquid and flow into the joint, almost seeming to disappear. Keep the flame on a nearby part of the fitting or pipe so that the joint doesn't cool down too much, however.

Do not over tighten the pipe cutter. This causes the end of the copper pipe to bulge or crush, which makes it difficult to fit things together. Finger tighten, spin a few times, and repeat until the pipe pops off.

Propane works fine for soldering, but higher heats are more desirable, so butane is superior. It takes a little longer for propane to heat the joint up - copper is an excellent conductor of heat. Using a higher heat like butane makes the job go quicker. Be careful with MAP/Pro, or propane+oxygen rigs. They create much more heat, and it's possible to burn up the pipe on the highest settings. However, getting a MAP/Pro or dual gas rig (oxy+propane, oxy+butane, oxy+acetylene) will give you the ability to get into brazing and welding.

Don't try to solder copper pipe while water is in it. You have to remove the water; it will cool the pipe down and prevent a proper solder joint. It can also cause steam jets which will blow out the solder and/or burn yo.

Speaking of heat, you'll often see plumbers wipe down a freshly soldered joint with a moist rag. This is to cool the joint and remove some of that heat. It's also to clean the burned flux off. Do not, as I once stupidly did, use a soaking wet rag of ice cold water. When metal cools too rapidly, it hardens. Hardened metal is brittle. I've actually had cracks form in the thin walls of copper pipe because I soldered up a fixture then dunked it into water.

admiraldre (author)2016-07-21

Great Tips thanks for reminding us of best work practices. I keep a spray bottle of clean water by my side when I'm soldering. It can be a quick squirt for an ember you catch sight of or to cool the joint once the solder has set. I have a heat shield I always use wet and also some assorted pieces of aluminum street sign with small holes drilled in to accommodate push pins for tacking to a flammable spot.Great Job

sgoldman77 (author)2016-07-21

Well done. The most important thing to learn from this post: Heat the joint, then let the hot fitting melt the solder and draw it in. You don't heat the solder; you heat the pipe.
I'll add these safety tips: Soak your heat shield in water before each use. And if you have to make a joint inside a wall, cut a BIG opening. Otherwise, you risk igniting the building. Check for smoldering.

robertk6 (author)2016-07-21

tip #1 never solder corroded copper pipe... The heat from soldering will create more holes quicker... Better to replace the whole copper pipe which costs a nickle and will save you time in the future.

If you cant replace the pipe, use sharkbite fittings, but never solder.

twitting (author)2016-07-20

True MAPP gas has not been available for years in the US. MAP/Pro is a different mix and burns slightly cooler than the old MAPP gas. I'm burning my last tank of true MAPP gas.

tytower (author)2016-07-20

I don't bother with the inside of pipes except to debur . Just wasted time. You don't want solder going inside anyway and when melted the flux will flow in there somewhat. The inside of the rest of the pipe is of a similar condition so cleaning it is pointless. Cleanliness is the secret. Get it nice and shiny like you have it . Warm up first and then when you put solder on it is drawn in by capillary action right to the inside edge. I have used old fittings called "Yorkshire " where the solder is already in them and again cleanliness inside is the clue. I use Oxy acetylene only because I can get to the back of fittings more easily and control the heating better on the job. I used to use an asbestos mat behind to protect the walls but that disappeared somewhere so I use a bit of hardiflex now. I am able to use silver solder with this rig which gives a more rigid joint for me but solder works well usually .Oh and did I mention cleanliness ! Good instructable Thanks

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Bio: We love home improvement and enjoy sharing tips on YouTube and Home Repair Tutor. Everything we do is self taught. Over the last 12 years ... More »
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