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104 sweated copper jointsMonday, August 09, 2010
My copper plumbing to-do list is 24 lines long. This is going to be quite a day. We've got our gear assembled: tools for de-oxidizing pipe and fittings, solder, flux, sparker, a damp rag, and, of course, a MAP gas torch.

The process, as I could probably now do in my sleep, involves first cleaning any dirt and oxidation off both the exterior of the pipe and the interior of the fitting, applying flux over both surfaces, assembling the pieces together, heating up the parts until the flux is bubbling, adding solder at the interface while watching for it to wick around the entire joint, removing the heat, then rubbing it down with a damp rag to cool the metal and clean off the flux (which will oxidize the pipes if not removed).

Now, you may recall from a few days back that my plan is to upgrade the entire rear of the house to 3/4-inch pipe, mostly because we have so many more devices (and future needs) back here. I began today's work by building the pipes coming into and out of the cabinets, as well as some of the subassemblies, such as these ball valves which will control flow to exterior elements:

However, it will be much easier to explain what I did if I just follow the path of the water:

We begin at the supply lines - hot on the left, cold on the right (I had just cut off the 1/2-inch lines before I took this photo, and the two ball valves that you see in the picture are the shutoffs for the upper floors).

And while it wasn't the easiest thing to get action shots of the soldering process, here's a good one I managed to grab while heating up a new brass ball valve:

That ball valve can now be seen in action (closing off the new cold-water trunk line) in this shot of the two new 3/4-inch Ts and ball valves:

Viewing the same from the other side, we can see the trunk lines now continuing on to the rear of the basement:

Once through the wall (barely visible in the bottom of the photo above), the lines go down in the corner of the stairwell:

Where they enter the pipe labyrinth under the stairs (here they branch off in 1/2-inch lines to serve the washing machine via a pair of ball valves, while the main trunks continue on the diagonal under the stairs):

And here we see the lines continuing along the floor, under the soon-to-be-completed landing:

Then here is something that took me quite some time to figure out. Particularly, how to assemble both the cabinets and plumbing in such a way that it was actually possible! I think there was only one way, and it took a while to find. But now it's done! This shows the pipes coming up inside the cabinet which will be under the sink, along with a pair of ball valves which will serve said sink:

Now they are passing through the back of the next cabinet:

Then exiting the cabinet and making their way up the wall (I decided to reduce the hot water down to 1/2-inch at this point, as the only remaining service after this is the kitchen sink, while the cold water will still need to split off for the outside spigot and irrigation controller - I figure the plants wouldn't like hot water, anyway):

Here's a longer shot showing the vertical run of the pipes in the corner:

Though we must zoom in on that area in the middle, which contains the new ball valve to shut off the exterior spigot:

Moving up to the ceiling, here are both the cold and hot lines taking a turn, while the hot then connects into the old line running to the sink:

The cold water line continues on to a new 3/4-inch T and ball valve which will serve as the supply for a future backyard irrigation system.

Now, by far the scariest moment comes when it's time to turn the water back on. You slowly open the valve, and you hear rushing water. It's really loud. You don't know if it's going to stop. Did you remember to close all of the ball valves? What if there's a massive leak? Yikes!

Fortunately, I would have scored a 102/104 (98.07%) on this sweat soldering exam, and if partial credit was thrown in, probably a 99.2%. There were two small leaks, albeit in some of the most awkward areas to access! (hence the request for partial credit) One showed up in the hot water line under the cabinets (oh, perfect), and the other was in the cold water line at the point where it turns down into the stairwell. I was able to quickly repair the cold one after draining the lines, but the hot one will need to wait until tomorrow - it's nearly 1:30 a.m.!

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