Fixing Leaky Copper
How to remove and replace a failing valve or fitting.
Synopsis: Even in the best plumbing systems, leaks happen, often over time and especially at transition areas. Certified green plumber Georg Efird outlines his process for fixing leaky copper pipes. Efird removes leaky joints in two ways: sweating off the joint, which is least invasive; and cutting out the joint, which is necessary if the joint can’t be sweated off. Before a repair can be made, you must remove all water from the plumbing system. Next, ream, clean, and apply flux to the fitting. Then heat the pipe and carefully apply solder. Be sure to wipe down the pipe to remove excess flux, which is corrosive. Efird includes several tips, including advice on diverting heat to protect areas surrounding pipe, using bread to manage drips, and crimping joints to help hold unsteady work together before assembly is complete.
New construction has dominated my plumbing business in Asheville, N.C., for the past two years. My crew and I spent our days installing PEX tubing. The work was clean and quick. Before housing starts picked up, though, and since they’ve declined, I spent the majority of my time working with copper. These jobs often involved repairing or tapping into copper water lines in old houses.
Whether you’re cutting out a leaky joint or tapping into an existing line, there’s a methodical, easy-to-learn process to working with copper. Like any trade-based skill, however, practice is the path to mastery. The steps outlined here and some hard-earned tips that I’ve acquired over the years can save you some time and money on most repairs involving solder.
Leaks happen, and they happen for many reasons. More often than not, leaks develop over time, especially in tees, 45° elbows, and 90° elbows, which are subject to significant force as water…