Eye Diy

Soldering Tips for Mid-winter Breaks

By Canadian Home Workshop January 19th, 2009

burst pipe istockphoto thinkstock

Photo by iStockPhoto/Thinkstock


A recent blackout had me reaching for a propane torch, and it wasn’t for warmth.

What I learned this past weekend is that you shouldn’t assume that a power outage is a short one. While you can bet the folks at your local utility are scrambling to get the power back, don’t let optimism guide your (in)action, especially when it’s -25°C outside. I should have set all of the taps running at a steady trickle to prevent the pipes from freezing. However, when I got around to it, a pipe to one of my bathrooms was already frozen

It took 24 hours for the power to come on, and then another 12 for the crack to reveal itself. Then out came the solder and torches.

For a solid primer/refresher on soldering pipe, check out our Essential Plumber’s Tool Kit. But, if you need the short, short version–maybe you have a fix to make right now–here are the main points:

  • don’t skimp when you’re cleaning the pipe
  • heat the joint not the pipe (the solder will seal the connection better)
  • if you still have a trickle of water out one of your pipes, even after shutting off the water, a bit of bread will dam things up temporarily

Also, I must add that the Bernzomatic Powercell I had was very handy. It allowed me to get into a space too small for my regular propane torch.

Do you have any tips or tricks for soldering copper pipe? Let us know in the comments section.

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Jan. 20, 2014

2:21 pm

Some years ago I invested in a small asbestos? mat. (It may be of some other material but it looks like asbestos.) I use it in tight spaces, allowing much easier use of the torch than would otherwise be the case, just setting it behind the joint being worked on to protect wood and other materials from the heat of the flame. It makes a tricky job so much easier, and safer.


Jan. 20, 2014

9:46 am

For replacing burst pipe, consider using "shark-bites" - they are quick and efficient and no need for open flame and the risk of fire.


Oct. 27, 2012

1:44 pm

Always have a fire extinguisher on hand; always! Studs and vapour barriers burn easily if not paying attention. Worse, a propane leak at the cylinder/valve connection can catch fire. It happened to me. No, I didn't have my extinguisher at hand. Never again.

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