When doing a plumbing project involving soldering copper pipe, preparation pays for itself. To help you get ready here is a list of tools you’ll need when soldering copper pipe.
Soldering is an advanced process and is not DIYer- or beginner-friendly. If you are interested in learning to solder, seek out training; otherwise, if your project calls for soldering, consider hiring a professional.
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The torch needed for soldering copper can be propane or MAPP gas (methylacetylene-propadiene propane). MAPP gas comes in a yellow tank and propane comes in a blue tank. MAPP gas, usually a bit more expensive, gets much hotter than propane, so heats the pipe faster. Propane works fine, it just takes longer—which may work to your advantage if you are new to soldering copper and are working on 3/4-inch or 1/2-inch pipe. The choice of a torch is really up to you.
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There is more than one type of solder available so make sure to buy plumbing solder. Check that the solder is all right for soldering copper plumbing pipes and that it is safe for drinking water.
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This is an acid that makes the solder flow into pipe joints. Without a good flux, the solder will not flow right and it is more likely that you will end up with leaks. You can solder with most of the fluxes available at home improvement stores, but there are some you might prefer more than others. If you find one that is working well for you, stick with it, since not all fluxes are created equal.
Once again make sure that the flux you purchase is safe for drinking water if that is what the pipes are for.
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The striker is used to create a spark to start the torch with. Some torches have auto strikers built in so, in that case, a striker would be unnecessary. For safety reasons, it is always a good idea to use a striker, not an open flame, to light a torch.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Copper Pipe Cutters
Using copper pipe cutters is an easy way to cut the necessary pipe lengths. The cutters leave a nice straight edge and they help to minimize burrs on the cut edge.
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Making sure that the pipe and fittings are clean is probably one of the most important things to do before you begin soldering copper pipe. A good sandpaper cloth is necessary to clean the outside of the copper pipe. Sand both ends of the pipe to about 1/2 inch beyond the fitting.
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To clean the inside of the copper fittings, use a fitting brush. The wire bristles can prime the inside of the fitting to make good contact with the pipe.
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A fire cloth, a spray bottle with water, and a fire extinguisher are very important to have on hand when soldering copper pipe so that nothing catches on fire.
- Fire cloth: a barrier that is fire retardant can be positioned behind whatever it is you are soldering so that the surrounding area does not catch fire.
- Water: A spray bottle with water is a must. Wet down any area you will be soldering first and then use it as a backup if anything begins to smolder. Also, wet the area back down when finished soldering since the residual heat can still catch fire.
- Fire extinguisher: Always have a fire extinguisher handy when soldering copper pipe just in case something catches fire and you cannot put it out with just a spray bottle of water.
There are kits you can buy that have most of the basic soldering tools in them, which will often save you money. Consider that option unless you are looking at buying specific items such as a better-than-average torch, more solder, or a specific flux.