Soldering Copper Pipe

It is important to remember that the prep work is as important as the actual soldering of the pipe joint.  More on that after a couple of important housekeeping items.  To wit:

Injury Prevention

We would be remiss if, in this discussion, we didn’t stress the importance work safety and the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) -namely, safety glasses and gloves. In an industrial construction and/or maintenance environment under the jurisdiction of OSHA regulations, the use of safety glasses and gloves would be a requirement.  Of course, it’s unlikely anyone would challenge you while working in your own home. It is up to you.  Common sense would mandate, in my opinion, that working with molten metal would compel someone to reach for the safety glasses and gloves. I know it’s not always the case.  Just remember -your eyes need to last you a long time.  Your quality of life and lifestyle would be unalterably changed forever if you suffered the loss of an eye.  Eye injuries, along with hand injuries constitute the lions share of all injuries recorded by OSHA.  All injuries are preventable.

Protection of Property

Whether you are running a new 1/2″ copper line for a new garden hose connection or a new 3/4″ line to replace your old galvanized piping through the basement, or perhaps repairing a leaking fitting -you will want to plan the routing of the line in advance to locate all your fittings (couplings, elbows, etc.) where you can apply heat without risk of igniting your wood framing, wall -or, what have you.  We are working with an open flame here and many a house or other structure has burned as a result of soldering copper piping in too close proximity to the building structure.

Always have a properly sized fire extinguisher on hand.  After use of the torch, continue to monitor the area for at least 30 minutes in case something is smoldering and is not immediately apparent.  Have some rags on hand and a bucket with water to cool and/or smother any hot components or structural members.


One other minor point -we talk about ‘sweating a joint” or “sweating copper pipe.”  It is the same as “soldering copper pipe.”  Sweating and soldering -both references mean the same thing. To explain, for the benefit of the uninitiated, copper piping is joined with fittings of different configurations.  A ‘coupling’ joins two straight sections, an elbow is used to fashion a 90 degree angle.  There are other configurations -a 45 degree, for example, that enables one to route the pipe just about wherever you need to go, as well as fittings which allow the transition to a male or female threaded connection (threaded adapter).

Please note that a good portion of any trade is learning what hardware or parts and pieces are available to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, as well as knowing what specialty tools are available.  If you find yourself challenged to figure out how to get your line from point A to point B, ask your local plumbing supply counter man.  They are generally very knowledgeable and helpful in that regard.  As it is impossible to know what you do not know, ask the question -and remember -there is no stupid question.  Also, note that the most knowledgeable help and widest variety of tools and fittings will come from a plumbing supply house -not the big box store.  There may be exceptions but generally speaking, it is true.

The fittings are used to join sections of pipe.  Solder is an alloy used as a filler metal to unite two pieces of (in this case) copper together.  The solder has a relatively low melting point -lower than the copper and so, enables the fusing of the metal parts together without bringing the base metal (copper) to the melting point.  The fitting is heated until it is sufficiently hot enough to melt the solder -so, when the solder is introduced to the fitting/ pipe joint, the molten solder will be ‘sucked’ into the space between the fitting and the pipe -by “capillary Action.”  If you recall your physics class, capillary action is the same phenomenon that causes water to be absorbed by a sponge.

Plumbing design and installation is governed by national, state and local codes.  The work you do must be in compliance with the applicable code having jurisdiction.  It is the homeowners responsibility to be informed about such matters.  Some areas require plumbers to be licensed.

Back to the Prep Work

The fitting must be cleaned thoroughly with a wire brush made for the purpose (specialty tool -get one, they’re cheap).  Accordingly, the end of the pipe to be joined (the portion of the pipe to be inserted into the fitting) must be cleaned as well.  Use emery cloth or ‘plumbers roll’, as it is sometimes called.  Fine sandpaper will do in a pinch but plumbers roll holds up better, especially if it gets wet.  You cannot over-clean the copper.  If it is not clean the solder may not bond to the copper and may leak -creating re-work.  It then must be re-heated, taken apart, cleaned and sweated all over again. Who wants to do that?

After you clean the parts thoroughly, apply flux paste liberally to both pieces.  Fit the pieces together and get the assembly in a position to heat it safely.  Ideally, it should be self supported.  Clean off the excess flux with a rag.

Unroll a short (4-6″) section of solder and bend about a 2 inch ‘hook’ in the end of it so you’ll be able to reach around to the far side.   (Note: If there is no room for you to get around on all sides of the fitting, there is a side you will not be able to see.  The hook will enable you to apply solder to the side you cannot see.)


CAUTION: DO NOT ever position your head and face beneath a fitting you are sweating (even if wearing safety glasses).  Dripping molten solder causes serious burns on your skin.

After donning your safety glasses, apply heat to the fitting -NOT to the pipe.  Test by touching the solder to the fitting to see if it is hot enough to melt the solder.  The solder will begin to be ‘drawn up’ (remember capillary action?) into the fitting.  Apply solder all around the fitting until it is ‘capped off.’  Do not overheat the fitting.  Once the solder is flowing, pull the heat away.  Re-apply heat as necessary -only enough to get the solder to flow.  Then remove the heat.  Wipe the excess solder off of the joint with a rag.

Horizontal and vertical joints are both accomplished using the same approach.  Heat the fitting -not the pipe.  Bend a hook in the solder so it can be applied to the side of the fitting hidden from view.  Apply the solder to the far side and it will be drawn around to the heat.


Some other references from some respected sources:

Copper Fittings (image)

Copper Tubing Handbook (pdf)

Soldering Flux Paste (MSDS)

Solder MSDS


History of Copper Plumbing

Plumbing Fittings

Plumbing Code

Eye Safety

Hand Protection

Eye and Face Protection

Butterfly Garden

 Butterfly Garden: How You Attract Butterflies

Can someone tell me what is more pleasant than seeing a butterfly land on a flower near you?  Anything at all?  

Attracting butterflies to where you live is an enjoyable part of the summer.  Whether attracting them to your home and garden in the suburbs or in the country -or, if you live in the city -you can do it if armed with a little knowledge about what butterflies are seeking.  

The Golden Rule for attracting butterflies: Find out what they want and give it to them.

Butterflies feed on native plants.  Often their only source of food are these native plants.  Key among them is the Aster family which includes these plants for butterflies:

  • Black Eyed Susan
  • Bee Balm
  • Sunflower
  • Blazing Star
  • Coneflower

Butterflies also like Sneezeweed, Oxeye Sunflower and some non-Aster plants like Mountain Mints.  These plants attract a variety of butterfly species including:

  • Swallowtail
  • Zebra Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Monarch
  • Viceroy

As butterflies go through different stages of their life, their interaction with with plants varies.  For example, they may lay their eggs on one kind of plant, as caterpillars, feed on another type plant and as adults, yet another.  So, having a range of plants is good.  A case in point -Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and feed on them as larvae.  Adults feed on a wide range of plants.  They love the Blazing Star.

Sponsored Ads

Containers Will Work

Your Butterfly Garden can consist of a few containers.  You don’t need a large yard or garden to attract butterflies.  One only needs to know the plants that attract butterflies, as

Butterfly Garden: How to Attract Butterflies
Karner Blue Butterfly

many of the preferred plants can be grown in containers anywhere in the city or suburb.  To do so creates an urban ‘butterfly oasis’ in an otherwise desolate landscape in terms of food.  Butterflies do pass through urban areas.

One of the best things you can do ecologically is to provide a ‘stopping spot’ for butterflies and other insects to feed along their way in an urban area. This is consistent with the ‘Green’ environmental movement.  Not only do we create something beneficial for the butterflies -we get a benefit from it as well.  We get all the beauty.

To attract butterflies you don’t need a big meadow.  You can do it with containers (i.e. flowers in pots or flower boxes -container gardening) and the butterflies will come.

Do you have any thoughts on or experience with this? If so, why not share them by commenting below.  Also, if you like this, please share it on Facebook or another social media -buttons are at top and bottom of page.  We do appreciate it.  As always, thanks for coming by.

Some other interesting butterfly information:

Adirondack Butterflies

Monarch Watch

Butterfly wiki



What do butterflies eat?

Caterpillars and Butterflies

Plants for Butterflies

Plants that attract butterflies


Butterfly Species – Massachusetts

Butterfly Gardening

How to Prune Tomato Plants

After going through all the work of planting a tomato garden, how disappointing is it when all you get are a few dinky tomatoes?  There are things you can do to increase the bounty in terms of numbers and size.  It might seem counter-intuitive, but the practice of pruning or selectively trimming off certain branches will increase your yield.  That, along with adequate compost and watering and sunshine should be all that is needed.  

There is a method to pruning so, the best advice is to learn how to prune tomato plants before you make a mess of it, like I did the first time.  😉

How to Prune Tomato Plants in Your Garden

Tomato plants should be pruned throughout the season starting when the suckers are between two and three inches (2-3″) long.  To do so increases the yield and reduces the disease pressure on the plants.

Prune the plant back to two ‘leaders’ and remove all the suckers in between.  As plants grow up they can be ‘trellised’ on the stakes.  The first ‘leader’ can be identified as the large stem branching from the main stem.  Below the first flower cluster is a sucker that becomes the second leader.  Some growers limit the plant to two leaders as the main growing points.

Sponsored Ads

Remove all the other suckers growing from the ‘leaf axles’ along the stem.  (The leaf axles are the horizontal leaf stems off the leaders).  Pinch the suckers off with your fingers.  Removal of the suckers will invigorate the plant and allow leaders to to see more growth and produce more fruit.

Suckers should be pruned every week to ten days (7-10 days) during the growing season.  It matters little what time of day you do it as long as the leaves are not wet.  How to Prune Tomato PlantsPruning when the leaves are wet may help spread disease.

Some types of tomato plants do not require pruning.  ‘Determinate’ plants are bush type plants and only get to be about three (3) feet tall and do not require pruning.  ‘Indeterminate’ plants continue to grow throughout the growing season until frost comes.  They need to be pruned of suckers and staked.  One method of staking is called ‘basket weaving.’  Cord or twine is ‘woven’ between stakes and around plants to give them something to support their vertical growth.  It acts as a trellis to support the plant and keep it off the ground.

About thirty (30) days before the first frost is expected, trim back the growing points -the ends of the leaders.  This will inhibit new growth and the plants will instead force energy into the last fruit to ripen it before the frost comes.

Not pruning your tomato plants will result in a dense jungle of plants that kind of take over your garden, with more greenery than fruit.  The dense growth inhibits the sun from getting at the fruit and blocks air circulation and slows drying -sometimes promoting certain blights and mildew that thrive in the wet conditions.

Do you have any thoughts on or experience with this? If so, why not share them by commenting below.  Also, Sharing is caring.  We hope you do both.  Use the Facebook icon or another social media button at the top or bottom of the page.  We do appreciate it and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

Other articles from respected resources:

How to Trim a Tomato Plant

How Do You Trim a Tomato Plant?

Pruning – WIKI

Trimming Tomato Plants

Garden Tomatoes

Diseases in Tomato Plants

Prune Tomato Plants



Remove Mold & Mildew


How to Remove Mold and Mildew and kill Fungi in the Home.

Mold and Mildew are most prevalent in the Hot and Humid times of the year in areas of the home where moisture builds up, is dark and is not well ventilated. Basements and under sink cabinets are common areas for house mold.

Prevent mold and mildew by keeping areas and surfaces dry and well ventilated.  Mold and Mildew should not be allowed to accumulate in the home as there are health risks involve as spores multiply and become airborne.  Spores enter the body by inhalation and through contact with skin, as well as swallowed.  Health is affected as allergy symptoms are manifestedThe most vulnerable are the elderly, infants, those with weakened immune systems.

There is usually no need to spend money on testing -although Black mold is especially toxic and poses serious health risks.  To be safe, if there is any doubt, have it tested.  Typically, someone in the house would be displaying symptoms before you knew there was a mold problem.

You can use your eyes and nose for detection.  The presence of mold and mildew give off an earthy, musty smell .  Looking at an ugly, filthy looking build-up or stain that is either cottony, velvety, or granular.  Colors vary: white, brown, black, yellow, green.

How to find mold: Look for staining or growth on surfaces of building material.  Look for water leaks or build-up of excess water -in the form of stains or growth.  Look for condensation buildup.

Sometimes getting rid of mold requires intrusive measures requiring repair -like opening up a wall to get at the fungus growth.


Common Indoor Moisture Sources that Promote Mold and Mildew Fungi Growth

  • Flooding
  • Condensation
  • Through basement walls & slabs
  • Roof leak
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Sink, toilet, tub overflow
  • firewood stored indoors
  • Humidifier use
  • Inadequate venting of kitchen or bathroom humidity
  • Improper venting of a combustion appliance
  • Failure to vent clothes dryer outdoors
  • Line drying laundry indoors
  • House plants -excessive watering

Maintaining a 60% relative humidity level in the home by use of a properly sized air conditioning unit or dehumidifier will help.  A hygrometer is an instrument for measuring the water-vapor content (or, relative humidity) of the atmosphere.  You will need one to properly monitor the RH level.


Remove Mold

CAUTION: Anyone attempting mold and mildew remediation should utilize Personal Protective Equipment for their own protection, as well as the protection of others in the area.  Gloves, eye goggles and a respirator rated N95 or above should be used at a minimum.  The use of Tyvek coveralls is recommended to avoid contaminating personal clothing with the spores.   Preventive measures should be taken to avoid, or minimize the risk of contaminating the surrounding area as material is carried out of the house.  Material should be bagged before being moved through the house and taken outside.  Clothing, when done, should be bagged before being brought to the laundry area and washed separately.   Airborne contamination can be minimized by use of  plastic sheeting hung to cordon off the area being worked on.

Porous materials with mold and mildew growing must be removed.  Porous materials include the following:

  • Sheetrock (drywall or gypsum board)
  • Fiberglass insulation
  • Plaster
  • Carpets and pads
  • Wood products (other than solid wood)
  • paper products

Hard and Non-porous material can usually be cleaned:

  • Hard plastic
  • Concrete
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Solid Wood

Remove or capture as much of the mold contamination as possible.  Dead spores left behind will still cause health problems.  Using hot water and a non-ammonia soap or detergent, clean the surface with a stiff brush.  Collect the excess water with a wet/dry vac or a sponge.  Rinse thoroughly and dry ASAP.  Fans set up in the area will expedite drying.

After mold treatment and area is clean and dry, kill mold using a bleach solution and a sprayer (hand sprayer or garden sprayer).  Use bleach with caution.  Do not mix bleach with ammonia.


Other resources:

Mold Remediation

Mold Exposure Symptoms

House Mold -EPA

Getting Rid of Mold

Mold in the Home

Kill Mold

Mold in Basement

How to Find Mold

How to Clean Mold

Mold Allergy Treatment

Mold Drywall

Mold Fungi