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How do you Solder Copper Pipe and Fittings Together?

How do you solder copper pipe and fittings?

How to solder copper pipes and fittings.
Copyright: bogdanhoda / 123RF Stock Photo

How do you solder copper pipe and fittings? You will notice how easy it is to do this when you are using the steps found here. Someone who is trying to get a better result can use this article for inspiration.

Copper Soldering Tools

– Gloves, safety glasses, safety boots, bucket of water, fire extinguisher and temperature resistant soldering pad
– Copper tubing and fitting
– Measuring tape
– Hacksaw or copper tube cutter
– Wire fitting brush
– Copper tube cleaning brush
– Vise
– Flux brush to apply the flux
– Lead free flux or soldering paste designed for soldering copper
– Lead free solder wire designed for soldering copper
– Propane torch

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Safety First

Put on gloves, safety glasses and safety boots before starting with the work. Make sure to also have a bucket of water on hand, because you will be working with a propane torch.

If anything catches fire you will be able to deal with the emergency using the water. Having a fire extinguisher for extreme cases is also the best safety precaution. You can also find temperature resistant soldering pads for sale. Use them as a shield blanket over delicate pieces or surfaces that can catch fire within your work area.

Cut the Copper Pipe

The copper pipe (copper tubing) and copper fittings that you are soldering together have to matched to each other. You need to cut the copper pipe to the correct size. Measure out the copper tubing and mark it. Make sure to factor in the space occupied by the copper fitting when measuring to copper tubing.

Start by securing the copper tubing in a vise. You can then cut the copper tubing with a hacksaw designed to cut copper tubing. Cutting the copper tubing with a hacksaw leaves a lot of burrs.

You can get a better result by using a copper tube cutter. These a designed to cut copper tubing leaving you will a square cut with less burrs.

Clean the Inside of the Copper Tubing

After you have cut the copper tubing you will need to remove the burrs inside the pipe. You will need a wire fitting brush to preform this task. You can use a half-round file in addition to the wire fitting brush to remove all burrs.

There are also other inner-outer reamer tools on the market that can be used to remove the burrs.

Clean the Outside of the Copper Tubing

You need to clean the area that will be inserted into the copper fitting. You get a copper tube cleaning brush designed for this purpose. Some wire fitting brushes have this function included as a extra feature. If yours does not then you will need to buy it as a separate tool.

You need to insert the copper tubing into the cleaning brush. Turn the cleaning brush around the copper tubing until the surface is bright all around. You can also use sand paper and emery cloth for this task.

Clean the Copper Fitting

You will also need to use the wire fitting brush to clean the copper fittings. Any debris left inside will cause a poor seal.

Use a Vise to Prepare the Copper Tubing for Soldering

You need to use a vise that is going to hold together the copper pipe and copper fitting that you are about to solder. It will be a lot easier for you to solder them together when using a vise.

Your hands will be free to perform the soldering process. Secure the copper tubing that you are going to be soldering a fitting onto in the vise in a horizontal position.

Apply Flux or Soldering Paste

Get flux or soldering paste designed for soldering copper tube and fittings. Use a flux brush to apply a light coat of flux to the cleaned end of the copper pipe. This is the end that will be inserted into the fitting.

The flux will ensure a firm bond between the copper and the solder. It will also keep the copper from oxidizing during the heating process. Also apply it to the cleaned inside of the copper fitting. Place the copper fitting on the copper tubing.

Start with the Soldering Process

Heating the Copper

Preform the soldering process with the most care possible to stay safe and get a good result. Using the the tip of the lighter blue flame of the propane torch move it along the copper tubing. Try to concentrate the heat at the center of the copper fitting while moving the flame around. Concentrating on moving the flame around in the middle of the copper fitting helps to warm up both sides.

Avoid heating up the area directly where Flux was applied. This will burn the flux and it will turn black and smoke will form. You will then have trouble getting the solder to flow into the join. Do not overheat the copper fitting. You will see it discoloring when you apply too much heat. Applying the correct amount of heat becomes easier with practice.

Soldering the Copper

You need solder wire that is actually designed to join copper. To check if the copper is the correct temperature touch the solder wire to the area where the copper tubing and copper fitting joins. If the solder melts and runs the copper is at the correct temperature. If you reach the temperature remove the flame.

Apply the solder completely around the join to ensure a good seal. Use only enough until the solder has coated around the fitting. Do not apply too much solder, because the excess could flow into the tubing causing a restriction.

Inspect the join to see if you have done everything correctly. A good join will show a even band of solder all the way around. If there is an area that needs more solder you can apply a bit more flux to that specific area. Then reheat the copper fitting and apply a bit more solder there.

Important Note: Safely shut off and close the valve of the propane torch after using it.

If the solder beads up and drops off and does not flow into the join there is a problem. You might have burned the flux or your cleaning of the copper tubing and copper fitting was not thorough enough. You will unfortunately have to take the copper tubing and fitting apart now. Clean both again and apply flux again before trying the soldering process again.

Important Note: Store your tools and supplies safely. Keep out of the reach of children.

The Cooling Period

You have to leave it to cool completely before you are going to touch it. Do not put any pressure on it before you leave it to cool. You will avoid any damage that happens just because you did not allow the pipe to cool.


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