Friday, July 5, 2013

Adding Another Trade to This Jack

People who know me call me a Jack of all Trades since it appears to them that I know a lot about just about everything. Of course I know different. I don't know everything but I am willing to learn new things provided I have some idea what to do and with the wealth of videos on the internet, I can get that idea of what to do fairly easily.

One of the things that I've never done in my life was solder copper piping. Our old farmhouse that I grew up in has copper piping but my father never modified any plumbing that I can remember until I was years out of the house and then, I wasn't around to see him do it. For decades I lived in a series of apartments where I never had to do any plumbing on copper piping or a house that only had pvc piping. Then I bought this house which is full of copper piping.

When I first moved into the place, every upstairs sink was leaking and since I had other fish to fry, I hired out a plumbing company to come in and replace all the valves which solved most of the leaking. The rest I was able to take care of with numerous trips to the hardware store, a story I blogged about a time or two.

Since then, I've had a little bit more time and decided that I should give it a try myself. My first opportunity came with an outdoor spigot that a previous owner had let freeze up and burst. I had to remove some siding to see what I was dealing with and then went to the hardware store to stock up on supplies. I bought some copper tubing, elbow and coupling fittings, a heat shield, flux, solder and a torch to get me set. All told, I paid less for all that stuff than I did for the labor charge of the plumbers that came last summer. I only had two joints to solder and it went smoothly.

I shelved my tools satisfied that it wasn't too hard and forgot about them until I dug into the bathroom project downstairs. After I shut off the valves under the sink and removed it, I noticed the next day a small puddle of water underneath the pipes. Those valves weren't replaced last summer when I had the plumber do the rest because they weren't leaking. However, I should have just had them done anyway because they were the same as all the rest and once I used them after 40 years of rust buildup, they just don't seem to be able to shut completely off.

I dug out all my gear and soldered up a valve assembly to some tubing and fittings to go into the place of the old valves. I decided to make the assembly ahead of time so that I only have one joint on each pipe (hot and cold) to solder next to the wood case of the vanity. I have a heat shield cloth to help prevent the wood from bursting into flames but I still thought it prudent to lessen any chances of fire. Another reason was that the original plumber didn't leave much of a stub of copper pipe coming from the wall so after cutting off the old valve, I lost another 1/2" of an already short pipe and thus making it even closer to the wood. But I was able to pull the pipe out a bit, clamp it off with some vicegrips until I got it soldered to the new valve without any mishap.

This time I did something different. I left the pipe on the downstream side of the valve plain for now. Because my wife hasn't picked out a new faucet yet, I don't know what combination of fittings I will need to connect to the 1/2" copper tubing. I could have soldered on some fittings to a pipe thread but it would inevitably be the wrong thread and require a couple trips to the store to get all the right fittings. So I am going to punt until I know what I need and then make the last solder joint at that point. But now I am almost comfortable with doing so, at least to those who consider me a Jack of All Trades. (In my mind, I always add... and Master of None.)


Linda said...

I am thoroughly impressed with your ability to pick up new skills and practice them, not just read.

warren said...

It's also def better than stretching garden hose around your house to take a bath or wash dishes!

Ron said...

I learned to sweat solder when the pipes on my first trailer burst when the heat tape failed. It isn't too hard, if the pipes are dry (if they aren't, you can ram white bread up the line, and let it wash out later).

Things are always more fun when you get to use a torch.

Anonymous said...

I was looking to make a towel drying rack for the bathroom. But when I priced out the pipe and connectors along with a lamp flux and solder it was far cheaper to buy a factory-made welded chrome one.

edifice rex said...

I always add the same thing to my description too!! (master of none!)
Allen made me learn to solder copper, basically, and I'm glad he did. It's not too hard and I've ran a couple of plumbing projects on my own since then. It's a very nice feeling to know you can do stuff.