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Thread: Unsweating brass fitting from 1/2" copper pipe

  1. #1
    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    Default Unsweating brass fitting from 1/2" copper pipe

    I have two outdoor faucets that are leaking.

    I am in Phoenix, AZ (very hard water) and wanted to change out the existing brass fittings for ball valves.

    I am having a hard time unsweating the brass from the copper. I've read through many posts on this site looking for answers, but nothing seems to help.

    I have turned off the water at the main, drained the plumbing lines and heated the brass fitting with MAPP gas for a good five minutes. I try to twist the fitting off, but it won't budge. I am afraid of twisting too hard b/c I don't want to damage the copper pipe behind the wall.

    There is a bit of water in the pipe. Would that cause the fitting to not sweat off? It's probably been on there for years and years.

    Any suggestions?

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  2. #2
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    You may need to crack one of the connections on your water meter to drain the water down lower than you hosebib.
    Either that, or saw it off and let it drain that way.
    Or open the wall behind it, and work at it from that side. Either way, if there is water in the line, no amount of heating will melt the solder.

    Frankly, I always cut the pipe first.
    After it has been drained down, and then preped, only then do I consider putting a torch on it, and that's just to solder it back up.

    You old hosebib will never drain down from the hose side.
    Last edited by Terry; 06-05-2013 at 10:27 AM.

  3. #3
    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    Thank you, Terry. I was afraid of that.

  4. #4
    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    Default 4 1/2" Angle Grinder to remove brass fitting with water in line

    Since I didn't know how to crack one of the water meter connections and I didn't want to open up a wall, I got out a 4 1/2" angle grinder with a metal cutting wheel.

    I cut off the brass hose bibb, stuffed a bunch of bread in the pipe and sweated the rest of the brass fitting off. It came right off easily with just a little bit (less than 2 minutes?) of heating with MAPP gas.

    I cleaned the old solder off the copper pipe with emery cloth. That took quite a bit of work. I probably should have heated the solder and wiped it off first, then used the emery cloth.

    I did try heating the solder and wiping up at a couple of points in the cleaning process, but that didn't seem to go so well. I was afraid I would heat the copper pipe too much and ruin it somehow!

    Anyway, I brushed the flux on, put on the copper fitting, twisted to spread the flux, heated with the propane torch until the solder melted and pushed a bunch in.

    I was a little concerned that I wouldn't get a good fit, because the copper pipe was pretty beat up and bent right up to the edge of (and maybe a little beyond...) where the copper fitting was going to go on. The fitting also was fairly "loose" on the dry fit. So, I pushed some extra solder into the joint. I'm not sure if that was the right thing to do, but I thought more would be better than less.

    After the joint cooled and stopped taking solder, I looked at it to see how well the solder went in. There seemed to be one small area where no solder was showing, so I reheated the joint and pushed more in. Again, I'm not sure if that's the right way to do it, but I went for it anyway.

    Long story short, I turned the water back on at the main and lo and behold...NO LEAKS!!! My first experience at soldering seems to be a success!!! I can't tell you how worried I was and how thrilled that I am that it all worked out. Thanks to everyone on this site for helping!

    Pictures attached below.

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  5. #5
    DIY Member DaveHo's Avatar
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    Outlet on the hose bib looks to be higher than the line supplying it. Try drilling a hole in the bottom of the hose bib to let the water out. That might not get all of it depending on how the pipe is sloped. I don't think you have much to lose. If you heated it for 5 minutes already anything not metal inside the valve is likely toasted anyway.

    -Dave

    Nevermind. Looks like you found a solution.
    Last edited by DaveHo; 06-05-2013 at 01:37 PM. Reason: OBE

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    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    Hi, Terry,

    Thanks for the advice. I would have cut the pipe right where it meets brass fitting if I had enough remaining pipe to sweat the new fitting on. But, there didn't seem to be enough of a stub out and what was there was beat up and bent... So, I cut through the brass fitting with an angle grinder to preserve that little bit of copper pipe that was inside the fitting.

    When you write that you "cut the pipe", do you mean that you cut the pipe right where it goes into the fitting?

    Is there a reason you don't put a torch to it until you solder it back up?

    Just curious if you were concerned about doing damage further up the pipe...like, say heating a connection up behind the wall so it comes loose...

    Thanks again!

  7. #7
    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    I see what you mean, Dave. I hadn't noticed that the hose bib was higher than the supply line.

    In hindsight, that must have been what Terry was referring to when he wrote that the hosebib would never drain down.

    Thanks for the observation and advice!

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Since the hosebib is being thrown away, and there is water in the line, we just cut it off with a hacksaw. We always have one handy, so it's makes more sense than rounding up a grinder and cord.
    It's copper. It takes a few seconds to cut through it.

  9. #9
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    FWIW (next time), there's no reason to clean all of the old solder off of a connection...you only need to clean enough off so that the new fitting will go on (or more, if there is corrosion, but unlikely under an old fitting you removed). In fact, since it has already flowed all around, it's easier to get a good connection. Add flux to both the inside of the fitting and the outside of the pipe to ensure you have some on all surfaces. Remember to clean the inside of the fitting you're adding as well as the pipe it's going on.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  10. #10
    TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP MACPLUMB 777's Avatar
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    I would have just my handy dandy wet/dry vacuum to suck water out of the hose then unsweated the hose bib, and just to let you know they make compression hose bibs you can tighten on with a wrench and then don't have to solder,
    also you should add a anti-siphon device on the end of both of your hose bibs to protect you and your family's health

    MACPLUMB 777

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  11. #11
    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jim. I didn't know about not having to clean all the old solder off. I thought it had to be down to bare copper all around. That will definitely help for next. I'll also ad flux to both pieces. I only brushed it on the pipe this time, although I did clean the inside of the fitting. Thank you for your advice. - Jeannie

  12. #12
    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    Thanks, Jerry. I would have never thought of a wet/dry vac for that! Great idea. Good to know about the compression hose bib. I didn't know. I know there are ball valves that you can solder right on to copper, but the big box store I went to didn't have them. I'll have to look into an anti-siphon device. I have no idea what that is...If you or anyone has a link to one, I would appreciate it. Otherwise, I'll start doing some searches. Many thanks for the advice!

  13. #13
    DIY Member Fumisan's Avatar
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    MACPLUMB 777, I went out and got the anti-siphon devices you mentioned.

    I also read up a little on them. Looks like they keep "foreign" materials (fertilizer, dirt, chemicals) from coming through the garden hose and into the household water supply. It also looks like one has to tighten them and then break off the set screw after tightening. Is that right?

    Here's a picture for any fellow newbs that come along!:

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