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HOW- TO HOW-TO WORK WITH SMALL BORE COPPER AND PLASTIC PIPES

Modern homes rely on piped domestic hot and cold water and gas, as well as hot water for central heating.
This How-to guide will show you how to cut, join and fix pipe-work easily and neatly in above-ground
installations.
WA R N I N G
This How-To guide covers pipe-work for water and waste. Pipe-work for gas must only be carried out by a competent
engineer and in compliance with CORGI and IEE regulations.

MATERIALS
To a large extent, these will depend on the job and • Jointing paste, white and green for drinking
the type of pipe used. (potable) water
• Copper tube • Plumber’s tallow
• Plastic tube • Powerflow flux
• Fittings • Wire wool, ‘O’ grade
• Pipe clips to suit pipes • Solder, lead free for use with drinking (potable)
• Screws for pipe clips, 32 x 4mm or 40 x 4mm water
countersunk (c/sk) • Kitchen towel

TOOLS
• Hammer-action electric drill, plus masonry and • Half round tapered file, medium cut
HSS twist bits • Bradawl
• Mini pipe cutter for pipes from 8–22mm • 4mm mild steel rod x 1m
• Plastic/vinyl pipe cutter • Bending springs, internal 15mm, 22mm
• Blowtorch • Steel brushes for cleaning inside copper tube
• Heat shield pad and fittings, 15mm and 22mm
• Small brush for paste flux • Steel tape measure
• Junior hacksaw • Combination try square
• Adjustable wrenches, 250mm, 200mm • Small hand or dental mirror
• Slip nose pump pliers • Chalk line
• Pozidrive No.2 screwdriver • Spirit-based pen, fine fibre point
• Claw hammer, 16oz • HB pencil
• Round file, medium cut • Knee pads

HOW - TO 1
F1

B E F O R E Y O U S TA R T
Do a sketch of your proposed project. Include measurements. List the type and number of each fitting you need.
If you are new to soldering, buy an extra length of pipe and a few fittings with which to practice.
Clear as much space as possible.
If working in a loft, ensure good lighting and boards on which to walk and kneel safely and comfortably.

HOW - TO 2
F2

COPPER PIPE
The most readily available is half tempered and therefore easy to work with and bend.
For small-bore work, the most common sizes are 15mm and 22mm, available in 3m lengths.

TYPES OF JOINT FITTING


There are dozens of different fittings available. F1 shows the most commonly used.
1 equal straight coupler
2 reducing straight coupler
3 90 degree bend or elbow
4 obtuse elbow
5 equal tee fit
6 reducing tee
7 straight tap connectors
8 bent tap connectors
9 full crossover
10 stop end
11 reducer

Designation of fittings
For straight fittings with unequal ends, the larger end is given first (F2A).
For tee fittings, first specify the ends on the run (larger end first) and then the branch (F2B).
For fittings with either one end capillary or compression and an alternative other end, such as flin male to iron,
give the compression or capilliary first, such as Yorkshire 22mm x flin male to iron.
In old properties with imperial size tubing, to join metric tube to imperial:
For fiin, use a 15mm joint
For 1in, use a 28mm joint
For flin, special 22mm adaptors are required.
There are special compression fittings for joining copper to lead pipe.
Mechanical joints – compression and push-fit – should be installed so that they can be inspected for leaks.
A well-made solder joint, once it has been pressure tested, can be hidden and forgotten.

HOW - TO 3
F4

F3

CUTTING COPPER PIPE


With a saw:
1 Use a spirit-based fibre tipped pen to mark the pipe to length.
2 Wrap a piece of paper round the pipe as a guide.
3 Use a junior hacksaw to cut the pipe.
4 De-burr, using a round file inside and a half round file outside.

With a pipe cutter:


1 Mark the pipe to length.
2 Adjust the pipe cutter to closely fit the pipe. Tighten the knurled knob and turn the cutter until the pipe is
severed (F3).
3 De-burr the inside of the pipe with a round file. Ensure all filings are removed.

JOINTING COPPER PIPE


There are three methods of jointing copper pipe: compression, push-fit and solder joints (F1).

COMPRESSION JOINTS
Compression joints are semi-permanent and are used for joining tubes together or for joining tubes to equipment.
They require little skill to assemble or take apart and few tools. They can be made where water is present and are
suitable for both plastic and copper tubing. Some compression fittings are available in chrome finish for work with
chromed or stainless pipe.

Compression joints consist of:


1 A socket with a stop-end to take the tube, which has an external thread.
2 A compression olive (soft metal seal), which seats in the mouth of the socket.
3 A coupling nut that, when tightened, compresses the olive onto the tube to make a joint (F4).

HOW - TO 4
F6

F5

To use compression fittings:


1 Cut the tube square and de-burr it.
2 Line the thread of the nut with a smear of jointing paste.
3 Slide the nut over the tube followed by the olive.
4 Insert the tube into the socket and tighten the nut by hand. Use spanners to tighten the nut by approximately
1⁄ turns for 15-22mm pipe and one turn for 28mm pipe (F5).
Do not over-tighten the nut as you may cause the pipe to leak.

PUSH-FIT FITTINGS
These may be used with both copper and plastic pipe in 15mm and 22mm sizes. Those sold by HOMEBASE are
semi-permanent and may be re-used. They cannot be used for gas, fuel oil or compressed air applications.
Push-fit fittings (F1 and F6) require little skill and very few tools. They are quick and easy to assemble and undo,
while the joints can be rotated after connection, which makes assembly easy, especially in a tight situation. They
can be made where water is present and are available for both copper and plastic pipe-work.

To use push-fit fittings:


1 Cut the pipe square and de-burr it.
2 Push the pipe fully into the fitting, using 30mm for 15mm pipe and 35mm for 22mm pipe.
3 Pull the collet back (F6) and onto the pipe, ensuring it is secure.
4 Insert the collet clip to ensure maximum grip (F6). A tamper-proof collet can be slid over the connection.
Remember to slide it over the pipe before making the connection.

To demount a push-fit joint:


1 Remove the tamper-proof collet.
2 Remove the collet clip.
3 Set the adjustable spanner to the diameter of the pipe and slide it against the collet, withdrawing the pipe at
the same time.

Connections to boilers:
A minimum 350mm distance between a boiler and push-fit connections must be maintained.

Plastic push-fit valves and taps are not suitable for central heating installations.

HOW - TO 5
F9

F7

F10

F8

SOLDER JOINTS
There are two types of solder joint: Yorkshire, which has a recess filled with solder, and End Feed, which is fed
with solder at its open end.
Solder joints are cheap, small, neat and permanent. They can be made in a tight working area and, if made well,
can be hidden and forgotten. They do, however, require more skill, care and attention to cleanliness than
mechanical joints.
When jointing into existing pipe-work, there must not be any water present. If the pipe cannot be drained, use a
compression or push-fit fitting.

SAFETY
When using a blowtorch, it is a good idea to have a fire blanket and fire extinguisher handy. Take extra care when
working near old, dry timber.

Making an end feed joint:


1 Check for and discard any tube with dents or creases.
2 Cut the tube square with a junior hacksaw or tube cutter. De-burr the tube inside and outside.
3 Clean the exterior of tubes and inside of fittings with ‘O’ grade wire wool and a wire brush (F7). CLEANLINESS
IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE.
4 Apply flux paste with a small, clean brush to the matting area of the fitting and tube (F8).
5 Insert the tubes into the fitting. Turn the fitting to ensure an even coverage of flux. Remove excess flux with
kitchen towel.
6 Check the alignment of the fitting and tubes.
7 Protect the surrounding area with heat shield mats.
8 Apply heat evenly to the tubes adjacent to the fitting with a blowtorch. Move the flame all around the fitting
until fumes appear from the flux (F9).
9 Apply solder to the ends of the fitting (F10). Use approximately 15mm of solder for 15mm fittings and 22mm
of solder for 22mm fittings. Let the hot copper pipe and fitting melt the solder and draw it into the fitting by
capillary action. Apply heat evenly and do not over-heat.
10 Wipe off excess solder with wire wool. Check with a mirror that there is a ring of bright solder all round the
joints. Leave to cool.
Don’t touch it with bare fingers – IT IS VERY HOT.

HOW - TO 6
F11

Making a Yorkshire joint


1 Prepare, as in points 1 to 7 above.
2 The fitting already contains a ring of solder. Apply heat evenly over the joint and pipes until a bright ring of solder
appears at the end of the fitting. Apply a little more solder and finish as above.

If solder does not run easily into a fitting, try applying more flux. If this does not work either, the fitting is misaligned
or dirty. The joint must be re-made.

1 Heat the joint and pull or knock it apart. Use a heat shield pad or pump pliers.
2 Discard the fitting.
3 Reheat the pipe end and remove the solder with wire wool.
4 Remake the joint as above.

HINT
When connecting to fittings containing any sort of washer or ‘0’ ring, such as a drain tap, dismantle it before
applying heat.

PLASTIC PIPE
Plastic pipe for above-ground domestic use is suitable for all domestic hot and cold water and central heating
installations.
Do not use for gas, fuel oil or compressed air.

It is available in 15mm and 22mm sizes; in 25m and 50m coils; and in 2m and 3m straight lengths.
Joints may be either brass compression or plastic push-fit.
A special insert is pushed into the pipe to support the walls (F6). Make sure the insert is correct for the pipe and
fitting. A super seal insert with a secondary seal ‘O’ ring gives a better seal and security.

Using plastic pipe


When connecting to a boiler, a minimum of 350mm run of copper pipe must be installed between the boiler and
the plastic.
If it is necessary to pass plastic pipe through a metal joist or bulkhead, insert a rubber grommet into the hole to
protect the pipe.

Cutting plastic pipe


Cut with a handsaw and de-burr with a sharp craft knife. A far cleaner cut and better joint is made using a plastic
pipe cutter (F11).

HOW - TO 7
Bending plastic pipe
A bending spring is not required. The tube must not be over-bent or it will kink. Minimum bend radii are 75mm for
a 15mm pipe and 225mm for a 22mm pipe.

Supporting pipe
It is essential to support plastic pipe correctly by using plastic pipe clips.

Clip Spacing (in mm) Service Temperature

20º 60º 80º


Pipe 15mm Horizontal 500 400 300
Vertical 800 600 500

Pipe 22mm Horizontal 800 600 500


Vertical 1200 1000 800

It may be laid in concrete, provided it is installed in a larger plastic conduit. The pipe and fittings should be
removable for replacement and protected against frost.

Some pipe cleaners, inhibitors and descalents may have an adverse effect on plastic plumbing. Check the
chemical manufacturer’s instructions.

Painting and chemicals


Use only water- or oil-based paint. Collet covers prevent paint getting into fittings. Do not allow contact with
cellulose-based paint, paint strippers or thinners, solder flux or strong cleaning products.

HOW - TO 8