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Thread: Basic copper pipe plumbing looks easy

  1. #1
    DIY Member bobbobwhite's Avatar
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    Default Basic copper pipe plumbing looks easy

    and looks like one could learn to cut and solder pipe in no time. Is the basic soldering as easy as it looks....cut to length, sand/smooth cut end, try fit, flux, heat, solder, test. Is that it? Or is there more to it than meets the eye? I know carpentry, masonry, elec. and sheet metal but never took plumbing farther than PVC pipe for irrigation. Plumbers here go fom $75 to $100/hr and I am now retired so would like to save some green by doing the simple stuff myself. I need to install a new water pressure reducer and shutoff valve on the supply line. Looks easy, but..................

    Are there classes at HD or Lowes, etc. that teach this or should I just pay a plumber for an hour or two to do the job and learn it from him? Or is it easy enough so that I could just self learn by trial and error following the above steps? Thanks so much for a serious and savvy answer.
    Last edited by bobbobwhite; 01-23-2008 at 09:31 AM.

  2. #2
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    It's pretty straightforward, yeah. The best source of info, for the finer points, is the threads we've had about it here:

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17083

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17619

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9603
    Master Plumber Mark:

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    it smells like......victory......

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  3. #3
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    Its not real hard stuff but the real talent comes in knowing all the tricks of the trade. For instance you cut the main water supply into your home at 5 P.M. Saturday to install the PRV and discover the main shut off valve is not completely stopping the water. There is a constant dribble coming out of the pipe. The problem is water boils at 212 degrees F and solder melts at 395 degrees F. As long as there is water present you cannot get the pipe hot enough to sweat the copper together. Now the wife is screaming that she needs water to cook dinner, The plumber will come first call Monday or, charge 1 arm and both legs to come out... Whatcha Gonna Do?

    I know what to do... Do You?
    Thats why I make the bucks! My training and experience has taught me what I need to do to cover all phases of the job!

  4. #4
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    Smile

    Redwood - two of the linked threads, are on that exact topic.

    It's a DIY advice forum, not a "pro's do it better" forum. We're supposedly here to give advise, not toot our own horns.

    (...and the 1st rule is you don't cut off your supply at 5pm, when everything's closed!)
    Last edited by frenchie; 01-23-2008 at 10:27 AM.
    Master Plumber Mark:

    there is nothing better than the
    manly smell of WD 40 in the air
    while banging away on brass with a chisel and hammer...

    it smells like......victory......

    do not hit your thumb...
    __________________
    Just so everyone's clear: I'm the POODLE in the picture ("french", get it?) The hot woman is my wife.

  5. #5
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    I'm not tooting a horn Frenchie! The poster was referring to the money plumbers make and the work being reatively straight forward. It is the same in all the trades whether plumber, carpenter, electrician, or, car mechanic. None of this stuff is going to land a guy on Mars. Its all in knowing the tricks of the trade that allow you to finish the job and have it work right. Anyone can do this it just takes the time to learn how to do it right and do what it takes to get out of that 5 P.M. Saturday jam. The key for the DIYer is knowing his/her limitations and not turning a small job into a big one!

  6. #6
    DIY Senior Member Nate R's Avatar
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    Does solder really melt at that low a temp? I would've thought it was higher. Not based on anything, just what I would've thought.


    I had no problem doing my first basic copper plumbing job. But I don't know the tricks or everything about it by any means. It's not hard, but there's a reason plumbers make what they do.

  7. #7
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    Yes, Lead Free Solder melts in the 375-425 Degree F Range. The different manufacturers and metal composition accounts for the variations in temp. Its the ballpart though.

  8. #8
    Senior Robin Hood Guy Ian Gills's Avatar
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    Unfortunately the two jobs you propose to do are some of the few I would get a pro in to do. So that is a shame.

    I work on anything as long as long as I can cut off the supply reliably before it (and I do not view a curb stop as something reliable).

    Access is the only other thing that scares me. Pros are better in tight/flammable places, and the're better at heating one joint without melting another too.
    Last edited by Ian Gills; 01-23-2008 at 12:29 PM.

  9. #9
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    Basic soldering is not really difficult. Of course there are potential problems such as water in the line. A couple of other things that can be troublesome include tight quarters to use a torch and heavy fittings. The heavy fittings will be encountered on your PRV. These require much more heating than just "normal" copper fittings. The basic rules of soldering are clean the pipe and the fitting with a brush or sandpaper just before soldering, use a good flux on pipe ends and fittings, heat the fitting,not the pipe, and allow the heated fitting to melt the solder rather that applying the torch to the solder. Then, do not allow the newly soldered joint to move until the solder has cooled. Wipe the joint with a damp rag while it is still quite warm to remove excess flux. If a joint leaks, it must be disassembled and the entire cleaning and fluxing process must be repeated.

    If you are installing a PRV, are you aware that you also need an expansion tank?

  10. #10

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    I'm a bit amazed and amused that anyone would say soldering isn't difficult. I've yet to see an HO job that looks good or doesn't have problems. I've known plumbers who had been at it for 50 years and still couldn't solder without leaks. I've seen hacks from water softener companies who did it every day and produced work that could have been done better by chimps.

    Once, when I was much, much younger, I showed someone how to solder so that they could do the work themselves. I went back later for something else and couldn't believe the idiotic way he had run the pipes.

    Not only is it a matter of understanding the principles of soldering, it also has to do with the skill of laying out the job and knowing code and pipe sizing. It's knowing things like how to support and place a tub or shower valve. It's having some idea about standard rough-in measurements and when they shouldn't apply.

    Can you manage it? Sure. Should you? You be the judge.

  11. #11
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    This man didn't state or imply he was doing a full plumbing layout and installation. He wants to install a new PRV and valve.

  12. #12

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    So, in addition to the normal pitfalls of plumbing, he also has higher-than-normal pressure to deal with. Meanwhile, all the other HO's who are reading this thread are getting the impression that they could plumb their entire house in copper since everyone is touting how easy it is.

  13. #13
    DIY Member fidodie's Avatar
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    if you think copper is easy, try pulling 2 - 50' runs of pex from a basement supply, up an open 1st floor wall, through a joist bay, up a recently framed interior wall to a washing machine valve - crimp the top, and hook it into the basement manifold. Took about as long as it took to type that!

    I felt like i was cheating the first time i used pex. (yes, i protected against chafe and watched my bend radii)

    even easier if the house is balloon framed!

    I agree it is knowing the tricks, AND where to ask

    Please make sure you pressure check your supply side work! be careful at all times (you can burn down the house with a torch, get purple primer in your eye and there is no cure, and 60PSI of air pressure can send a test plug through plywood - there are 100s of gotchas) you need to check the drain too, but mostly you just get wet doing that.

    the inspector in our town is a great source of 'what to do' (and what not to, and when to get a pro), this forum is a great source of 'how to do it' -

    here is mixing good with bad....i had one of those leak problems where a valve wouldn't close. I wadded up some bread, and shoved it in the pipe, finished my work, and opened the valve...great, i heard it push through. well it was the kitchen faucet, and not anticipating i opened it, but hadn't taken off the aerator - took me another hour to get all the bread out of the screen......

    if you think it could be a career, best of luck! it is a trade that will never go out of style. kinda wish i went that way myself. My pro has a really cool truck

    pat

  14. #14
    Rancher
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    So since we're on the topic of home owner soldering...

    I always use tinning flux, sometimes tinning the fitting before slipping them together, never leaks.

    But I see most of the pro's here use sandpaper to clean the connection first, what about those battery post type cleaners made for copper pipe, is there a reason you don't use that tool?

    Rancher

  15. #15
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    You mean the brushes? Cross-contamination. If it gets dirt or grease or whatever on it from one pipe, or from something in your toolbox, or whatever... you'll be dirtying every other pipe you do with it.

    Emery cloth, you just tear a fresh piece off the roll.
    Master Plumber Mark:

    there is nothing better than the
    manly smell of WD 40 in the air
    while banging away on brass with a chisel and hammer...

    it smells like......victory......

    do not hit your thumb...
    __________________
    Just so everyone's clear: I'm the POODLE in the picture ("french", get it?) The hot woman is my wife.

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