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That leakTuesday, August 10, 2010
In an attempt to gain back some of the points that I lost on last night's soldering exam, I began the day lying on my back to get a view under the new cabinets. Here is what I saw:

Yes, the hot-water pipe is indeed leaking. Fortunately, it's the one in front! However, this is just about the lowest point in the system, so there was no way to get the water out without cutting the line, and it is impossible to solder pipes that are full of water because the water has too much thermal mass (note to self - next time, install drains at the lowest points). To remedy this, I decided to cut the pipe under the stairs to drain it, with the plan to just add a union there once I fix the leak. With the pipe cut and drained, it was time to see if we could fit the torch in there without lighting the cabinets on fire, and that actually worked rather well (fitting the torch, not lighting the cabinets on fire, that is):

With this finished, I soldered in the union (taking the total number of soldered joints to 107), then it was time to re-test the hot water. Same scary process as last night. Same result. Wait, what? Why is the joint under the cabinets leaking again? Didn't I just spend an hour to fix that? Grab a mirror. See that there is a big gap on the back side. Realize that a mirror should be added to the list of recommended soldering tools. Check to see if you have another 3/4-inch union. Be glad that you do. Re-cut the pipe to drain it (again, wish you'd put in a drain). Remove the old pipe. Clean the solder out of the fitting. Cut a new length of pipe. Apply a generous amount of flux. Solder the new joint. Check the joint with a mirror. Be satisfied. Solder the union. Turn on the water. Be pleasantly surprised when all is well. Go box up your soldering tools.

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