Soldering Quick Tips

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Introduction: Soldering Quick Tips

About: 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 we've bought and rehabbed several rental homes in Pittsburgh. Somet...

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

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

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

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

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,

Jeff

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    Tips

    Questions

    33 Comments

    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,

    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.

    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...

    3 replies

    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!

    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

    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!

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

    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.

    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.

    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!

    Weller not seller.. Meh spellcheck

    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

    I'm an old plumber...in 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.

    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.

    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.

    1 reply

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

    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)

    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.

    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.

    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.