Copper pipe question

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Forum topic by funchuck posted 08-23-2010 08:49 PM 2188 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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119 posts in 3261 days

08-23-2010 08:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: copper question


I know this is a woodworking forum, but I have gotten a lot of helpful advise from here, so I thought I’d ask here.

I had a plumber come out to do some work on our copper water lines and I wasn’t sure if he did everything ok. I have watched copper being soldered on tv (This Old House) and he did things differently.

After soldering he dunked the part into a bucket of water, or if he couldn’t dunk it, he’d wipe it down with a wet cloth. I wasn’t sure if this was standard practice since I hadn’t seen it done before.

When he was soldering near a stud, he used a spray bottle to keep the stud moist, then he’d use his flame on the copper… seemed dangerous to me, but nothing caught fire.

After he was done, everything worked with no leaks… should I be worried?

I did bring up my concerns with him, but he said he’s been a plumber for 20 years and that I shouldn’t worry since he has a 1 year guarantee on all his work.

What do you think? I am especially concerned about the water dunking part since I haven’t seen that before.



-- Charles from California

20 replies so far

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 4109 days

#1 posted 08-23-2010 09:53 PM

I am a licensed plumber, started in 1989. Ran my own shop from ‘99-2004…before I got into the sawmill biz. He just dunked the pieces so they would cool and he could work with them faster…would you rather he just wait for them to cool enough to handle ? (assuming he was charging by the hour) Water can’t hurt a water pipe. Wiping with a wet rag is important to get the extra flux off, flux left on can cause corrosion later.

And don’t believe everything you see on This Old House…That would be my response to you if you “Brought up your concerns” to me, as a experienced professional, if you were standing over my shoulder second guessing my work from what you saw on TV.

Hope that helps ?

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3852 days

#2 posted 08-23-2010 09:56 PM

Ive been an electric contractor for several years, and was working with plumbers on remodeling and new construction sites – your description didn’t seem unusual, but described what I’ve seen all the time.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View funchuck's profile


119 posts in 3261 days

#3 posted 08-23-2010 10:08 PM

Thanks Daren, that makes sense. I was just surprised to see him dunking the pieces in water after soldering. I wasn’t sure if this would change the properties of the metal, sort of like when you heat steel and rapidly cool it to harden it. He wasn’t charging by the hour, but that makes sense. I wouldn’t want to waste time either.

But yeah, I hope he did not think I was being intrusive by standing over his shoulder. I like doing home improvement/repair, but soldering copper seems too dangerous/risky when it involves your home, so I wanted to watch a pro do it. I figure for the amount he charged ($800 for 2.5 hrs of work), I should at least get to watch and learn. I did try not to be too instrusive, but when you see someone taking a torch to the pipe, which is a few inches from wood, I got very nervous.

PurpLev: Thank you for responding too. I feel better about it. I was worried if the pipe might develop a leak later on due to the rapid cooling that the soldered joint went through.

-- Charles from California

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3495 days

#4 posted 08-23-2010 10:17 PM

I don’t think you have anything to apologize for. Your concerns sound legitimate to me, and for what he was charging, I’d say you’re well within your rights to expect satisfactory answers – not smartass comments about you second guessing him.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 4109 days

#5 posted 08-23-2010 10:57 PM

I believe he did get satisfactory answers from his plumber, and a 1 year guarantee on all his work (standard practice). He has nothing to worry about IMO. He got a smartass comment on a woodworking forum from a plumber 1700+ miles away, not the one doing the work…

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3347 days

#6 posted 08-23-2010 11:11 PM

The price was high, the work was fine. Actually, moistening the stud is something you seldom see, most just put the stud out after it has caught fire. The pipes are always around something flammable.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View funchuck's profile


119 posts in 3261 days

#7 posted 08-23-2010 11:26 PM

Thanks guys. I didn’t think those comments were smartass comments. Daren, being a plumber himself, identified with the guy I hired and let me know how he must have felt when I was watching him. I did not think about that, although when I questioned him, I wasn’t rude or anything. I just asked if it was alright for him to be torching the wood in the house.

I think I shouldn’t have asked him about dunking the soldered parts in water. I must admit, that does sound a bit intrusive, but I did not want to deal with having that part leak again.

He didn’t seem annoyed or anything though, but maybe because we bought the home service plan from him that day, he was happy to get more money.

-- Charles from California

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3127 days

#8 posted 08-24-2010 12:33 AM

Funchuck: He was using the water to KEEP the wood from catching on fire. Some guys use water,I always used a wet rag or a tin foil plate for a heat shield. As far as dunking the hot copper, yes it does change the properties of the metal but not enough to hurt anything in that small of a fitting. I did it many a time too.
800 for 2.5 hours seems a bit high. While no one likes someone getting their shirt collar size while they are working, he was probably used to it. Frankly, when you are paying the bill, you are entitled to answers.

-- Life is good.

View funchuck's profile


119 posts in 3261 days

#9 posted 08-24-2010 12:54 AM

I thought the price was bit high, but I’ve had to deal with flakey contractors/handyman before, and while they usually charge very cheap prices, it is very inconvenient to deal with flakes (especially when you have a leak). He was actually one of the very few who had a 1 year guarantee, and he had free estimates. Other plumbers had no guarantees, or 6 month guarantees and were charging $65 to $100 just to come out for an estimate. I think that my area (los angeles) is more expensive in general, but yeah, those plumbers get paid more than I do!

Actually, I remember a few years ago, my pressure regulator broke and a different plumber quoted $400 to fix it. I declined and went to Home Depot. They had the exact same part for $80, and since it was held in with 2 bolts, I didn’t even have to solder. It took me all of 15 minutes to replace it myself!

-- Charles from California

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3991 days

#10 posted 08-24-2010 03:58 AM

The technique he used was fine. As for the price, you can thank your State government for a lot of it. California, and particularly the City of Los Angeles has some very high cost education, certification and licensing requirementsfor plumbers, which you pay for as the customer.


-- Go

View dmoney's profile


191 posts in 3283 days

#11 posted 08-24-2010 04:44 PM

I’m no plumber but I usually do the same thing. I’ve been burnt many times, those copper fittings take awhile to cool off. I have a plumber friend and gave me a 15 min course in how to solder copper fittings once. It really comes in handy.

-- Derek, Iowa

View poopiekat's profile


4387 posts in 3938 days

#12 posted 08-24-2010 05:22 PM

I haven’t heard of dunking soldered parts in cold water before. Wiping joints with a damp rag is a sign of careful, professional work. Dunking may be done on heavier castings, where the heat may linger long enough to keep the solder molten. Any mishandling of a molten soldered joint may result in a ‘cold joint’, where the solder looks grainy when it cooled and may ultimately fail. Plumber’s solder is 50/50 tin/lead, and has a ‘plastic’ stage when cooling off.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3127 days

#13 posted 08-25-2010 03:31 AM

Poopie: Did you know that 50/50 solder has been outlawed? Some idiot decided that the lead in those joints was bad for you and you could get lead poisoning by drinking the water. Thank our “friends” in the EPA, they know what’s best for us!!! I really don’t know how our forefathers survived without them.
Soldering is not rocket science..the key is clean and dry.

-- Life is good.

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 3412 days

#14 posted 08-25-2010 05:33 AM

Third generation union plumber (retired) here…
I always wiped my joints with a DRY rag while the solder was still soft. It makes a better joint and a better looking joint. You wouldn’t want to immediately wipe a freshly sweated joint with a WET rag. That could mess up the joint, not to mention create a very hot steam that could burn you. It only takes a few seconds, however, for the solder to “set” and the heat to dissipate along the length of the pipe. It would do no harm at all to dunk it or cool it with water after waiting just a few seconds.

As far as spraying the stud with water before he put flame to the pipe, that’s a decent precaution to take to prevent charing the wood or starting a fire. Nothing wrong with that at all.

FWIW, 50/50 solder was banned in California in the late 70’s. This leads to another thought on why your plumber was dunking/spraying the joints. I believe 95/5 (95% tin, 5% antimony) is still the current standard in California. It takes quite a bit of heat to get 95/5 to flow properly. If the pipe gets too hot (glowing red), it is annealed—made softer—and a quick quenching in cold water will harden it again. Although this practice is more common when brazing, it might be something of what he was thinking/doing.

P.S. If there are no leaks on the joints now, chances are extremely slim that one will develop. No, you shouldn’t be worried.

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3165 days

#15 posted 08-25-2010 03:08 PM

Daren is correct. My father used to do the same thing.

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