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How To Work With Copper Plumbing Pipe


Copper pipe has been around in the plumbing industry for many years and will continue to be for many more. There are many advantages to using copper pipe over other types of pipe like PVC, black iron pipe, or even pex. Copper pipe is non porous and can be bent, shaped , and used in many applications both indoor and outdoor. Even though copper pipe is more money then other types of pipe it is well worth using for reasons we have described above as well as reasons we will describe below.Working With Copper Pipe

Once you learn the basics to working with copper pipe you will never want to use another type. In fact many professional plumbers refuse to use anything else but copper pipe when plumbing new construction and even for repairs. Copper pipe really is the leader when it comes to domestic water systems and commercial DWV systems. This complete guide will show you how to prepare and work with all types of copper pipe and tubing. If you already know how to work with copper pipe but want to refresh your memory this guide will be god for you as well.

How To Measure Copper Pipe:

You will need a tape measure to measure the pipe. There are two types of measurements that you can make. The first one is called an “end to center” measurement and the second is called an “end to end” measurement. The end to end measurement is a measurement from one end of the copper pipe to the other. The end to center measurement is from one end of the pipe to the center of a fitting. You off course can measure pipe either way when pluming, but when using end to end measurements you will want to remember the fitting will accept some of the pipe so be sure to make your cut long enough. This is why the end to center measurement is preferred.

How To Clean Copper Plumbing Fittings:

Hand Plumbers Torch
There are a few ways that you can clean copper plumbing fittings. The most common ways are to use steel wool, grit cloth, a wire fitting brush or even self cleaning flux. Most professional plumbers will sure all of the above methods and you can to because all of these things are available to buy at any plumbing supply.

How To Use A Copper Fitting Wire Brush:

Dirty copper plumbing fittings can be really hard to clean with grit cloth , steel wool or even self cleaning flux, so this is why you will want to use a wire fitting brush to make cleaning the copper fitting easier. To clean the copper fitting with the wire brush you will first want to make sure that you have the right size. The brush size should be meant for that size fitting. Once you have the right size wire fitting brush you will want to insert it into the fitting all the way and spin the brush clockwise a few times or until the fitting is shiny and clean.

How To Steel Wool Copper Plumbing Fittings:

Steel wool is a great way to clean copper pipe and copper plumbing fitting and is preferred by many plumbers to clean copper. If you want to clean copper with steel wool you will want to take the steel wool and rub the fittings and pipe until they look clean. This method does require a bit more strength and effort to clean the pipe or fitting.

How Cut Copper Pipe:

The best way to cut copper pipe is to use something called a tubing cutter. A tubing cutter has something called a cutter wheel that is designed to cut the pipe nice and straight. There are many popular brands of copper tubing cutters like Ridgid. Ridgid tubing cutters are considered the number one brand in the professional plumbing field.

To cut the copper pipe you will want to place the pipe between the cutter wheel and the rollers and then tighten down the pipe by turning the handle clockwise until it is just snug. Once the pipe is tight in the rollers you will want to turn the pipe cutter around the pipe. Every time you turn the cutter around the pipe twice you will want to turn the handle a bit tighter. Keep turning the pipe cutter around the pipe until the pipe is in two pieces.

How To Flux A Copper Fitting:

In order to flux a fitting you will need some flux and an acid brush. Another name for flux is soldering paste, although you might not hear that term two much these days. Take the flux brush and stick it into the flux until the brush has a nice amount on it and then put the brush inside of the fitting and apply the flux to all cleaned areas. To apply the flux to the pipe take your brush and just apply the flux to the cleaned area as well making sure to cover all of the pipe that will be inserted into the copper fitting.

How To Sweat A Copper Fitting:

Once you have your copper fitting cleaned, fluxed and put together you will now need to do what they call “sweating a pipe”. To sweat a pipe you will need a mapp gas or propane torch, a roll of solder and a way to light the torch unless it is an electric ignition. To sweat the copper fitting you will want to light the torch and have it in one hand and have the roll of solder in the other hand. Before you start applying the heat unroll the solder a few inches so that you can push the solder into the fitting but being far enough away so you do not get burned by the torch.

Once you are ready hold the flame in one place and wait about 30 seconds to 1 minute and then take the solder and press it on the opposite side of the fitting. Once the solder start melting feed the solder in to the length of solder that is required. A general rule of thumb is that you will use as much solder as the fitting size. For example if you were sweating a 1/2 joint you would use 1/2 inch of solder,if you were sweating a 3/4 coupling you would use 3/4 of an inch of solder and so on. Once the heat has drawn the solder all the way around the fitting back off the heat and then let the fitting cool for a few minutes and then wipe it with cool damp rag to remove any excess flux. Once completely cool clean the sweat-ed copper joints with some steel wool.

How To Bend Copper Pipe:

Bending copper has many benefits and can be one of the ways to save money in your plumbing shop.There are two types of benders, ones that are used for soft copper and then ones that are made to bend hard or stick length copper pipe. To bend copper will need to first measure you bends and then depending on what type of copper you are trying to bend will determine if you will use a wheel copper bender or a flexible line copper bender. Either way just make sue to measure twice and bend once. Bending copper can be a great way to save money because it will save you from that extra expense of fittings but if you are not good at bending it could cost you money of you mess up. Now that you have learned all the ways to work with copper plumbing pipes you will be able to complete your plumbing project or even go back to work and impress your boss and tell him that you now know how to sweat copper pipe.


  1. Please, please, please don’t call it copper PIPE, we address it as copper TUBING even though it is hard drawn. There is such a thing as copper pipe but it is heavy walled and can be used as black iron pipe is used with threads.

  2. I found a tape measure called the Pipe Friendly Tape Measure made by tekforce which made measuring and cutting pipes faster and easier.

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