The act of soldering pipes is known in plumbing circles as “sweating” pipes. Sweating is performed when a section of copper pipe in a home’s plumbing system is damaged and needs to be replaced, or if a new section of pipe is required to be installed to lengthen or redirect an existing pipeline.
Professional plumbers are very well-versed in the endeavor of sweating pipes. But with the right tools and a little instruction, handy homeowners can often take on at least small pipe sweating jobs on their own.
Pipe Sweating Basics
Before beginning plumbing repairs or plumbing equipment adjustments of any kind in your home, make sure the water is shut off to the area in which you’ll be working. The basic tools you will need for a pipe sweating undertaking are:
- A hacksaw or a copper pipe cutting tool
- A file
- A wire brush
- Some fine sandpaper or steel wool
- A flux brush or toothbrush
- Flux paste or soldering paste
- A roll of lead-free plumbing solder
- A propane torch
First, make sure all sections of pipe that you’ll be working with are completely dry. If there are any burrs or rough edges around the ends of the pipes after cutting them, file them down and use sandpaper or steel wool to smooth the edges. You can also insert your wire brush inside the pipes to smooth those areas.
Next, use your flux brush or toothbrush to apply the flux or soldering paste evenly around the insides and outsides of the cleaned pipe ends. Then fit the pipes together and slightly rotate them to insure a tight seal. At this point, heat up the connection by evenly passing your propane torch over it. Then remove the torch and apply the solder. The solder should begin to run around the circumference of the pipe, aided by the heated flux or soldering paste. Apply more solder to areas that it has not yet covered.
At this point, let the joined area cool down. You should then have a firmly connected section of copper pipe. A plumbing supply outlet will usually carry everything you’ll need to complete a pipe sweating project. With a little practice, plumbing projects such as these should be no sweat!
Written and published by Thompson Electric, Plumbing, Heating & Cooling.