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Thread: Alternatives to the "bread trick"?

  1. #1
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    Alternatives to the "bread trick"?

    According to YouTube videos, when plumbers need to solder a fitting on to a copper pipe that has water dripping through it, they can plug up the pipe temporarily with a wad of bread. What are alternative methods? Do they make something like a plunger that can be pushed into the pipe to stop the drips? - a plunger whose handle can withstand the heat of soldering.

    (I need to solder a fitting on a 3/4 inch copper waterline and I don't know if the shut-off valve at the street is 100% effective.)

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    If you can flush it out of some open end after soldering the fitting, white bread works fine. You don't want it left in the system to clog washing machine, and faucet strainers.

  4. #4
    Similar to John's link, menards sells this version:

    https://www.menards.com/main/plumbin...5869246&ipos=9

    With both of those, you need to insert it through something like a full bore ball valve, so after the valve is installed, you can pull out the plug and close the valve to finish work.


    Another option is a freeze kit:

    https://www.menards.com/main/plumbin...6418254&ipos=3

    Pro setups are expensive, but the single use kits aren't too bad. You want to freeze the pipe as far away from where you will be soldering so you don't melt the ice quickly.

    Third, you can just install a compression or quick connect ball valve.

    Fourth, you can install a press system ball fitting or valve, but it takes a special tool to press it onto regular copper pipe.

  5. #5
    I normally open the lowest valve in the house, normally the garden hose valve outdoors and blow compressed air in the pipe to get as much water out of the pipe as possible. Bread isn't necessary then.

  6. #6
    My old man took care of any wet pipes problems when he installed this wall faucet for mom-
    lp.jpg
    -on the far left is the incoming main line, which tees to the left, then up to the cold water faucet in the kitchen. By teeing off the elbow to feed the wall faucet, any water seeping past the shutoff valve- and it does, it's never shut off completely- never makes any farther up than to that first tee; if I have any soldering to do (recently replaced the water heater) I just have to open the cold tap on the wall
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  7. #7
    If it is a horizontal run and it will be exposed and you have some flex in it, you can push the pipe down to drain it then push it up a couple inches and solder on a valve and then use the valve to stop the water. It helps if you can support the pipe while it is pushed up so you have both hands available to solder.

  8. #8
    While I much prefer a soldered connection, in this case, I'd just use a sharkbite-type (push-on) fitting and forget it...

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerome Stanek View Post
    Thanks for that. I never got around to buying the things on a rod because sometimes you need to put a fitting in the middle of a run, and close things back up with soldered fittings. These will be an improvement over bread, since they dissolve completely, unlike the bread. Ordering some.

  11. #11
    I've used those plugs, and they work OK when they are fresh. But they seem to degrade a while after you open the package and will then rupture when you try to push them in place. After using one, I put the extras in a zip lock bag, but a few months later they were not usable. Maybe something like a little glass jar would work better.

    Note: like the bread trick, they will stop a trickle of water for a short time, but if there is any pressure behind them (like from a leaky upstream valve) they won't work. The expandable rubber plugs can seal against pressure.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Dyas View Post
    I normally open the lowest valve in the house, normally the garden hose valve outdoors and blow compressed air in the pipe to get as much water out of the pipe as possible. Bread isn't necessary then.
    This.

    Even if street shutoff seeps, which is common, it will leak out of the lowest point.

    Of course also open a high faucet to permit air entry.

    Marc
    I'm pretty new here, not as as experienced as most. Please don't hesitate to correct me

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marc Jeske View Post
    This.

    Even if street shutoff seeps, which is common, it will leak out of the lowest point.

    Of course also open a high faucet to permit air entry.

    Marc
    I'm soldering a fitting to join the main water line from the street to a new waterline that goes under the slab of the house. So there is nothing upstream to drain off water coming from the water meter.

  14. #14
    I might be visualizing this wrong, but I'm assuming you are downstream of the water meter and there is a shutoff valve ahead of the water meter. If so, you can shut that valve and then disconnect the house side of the water meter. It should be some kind of mechanical seal, most likely some form of union The street side likely has a tamper seal, so don't disconnect that one.

    If you have room, this would be a good time to install a good quarter turn valve (with a drain nub) on the house side, so you don't need to worry about leaky shut offs ever again.

    Note that you want to make sure you have your "meter jump" grounding wire in when you do this, in case there is any electricy leaking to the ground through the copper water line.
    Last edited by Andrew Seemann; 08-27-2019 at 1:04 AM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    I might be visualizing this wrong, but I'm assuming you are downstream of the water meter and there is a shutoff valve ahead of the water meter. If so, you can shut that valve and then disconnect the house side of the water meter. It should be some kind of mechanical seal, most likely some form of union The street side likely has a tamper seal, so don't disconnect that one.
    That's the way things are, but I haven't excavated much of the waterline in the yard. I haven't excavated the end near the water meter, which is in a hole near the curb of the street. I can shut the water off with the city's valve in that hole, but the valve leaks a little. The old (1958) water line had a shutoff valve buried in the ground near the house. That valve is upstream of where I am working.

    If you have room, this would be a good time to install a good quarter turn valve (with a drain nub) on the house side, so you don't need to worry about leaky shut offs ever again.
    I intend to do that where the water line exits the slab inside the house. (This house does not have a basement or crawl space.) I may eventually remodel the plumbing in the yard. Right now, there is trench through the house due to replacing a leaking cast iron sewer line with PVC. I'm replacing the water line in that trench - just because the line is exposed and it seems the right time to do it. Before I worry about things in the yard, I want to get this trench backfilled and proceed with work inside the house.

    Note that you want to make sure you have your "meter jump" grounding wire in when you do this, in case there is any electricy leaking to the ground through the copper water line.
    That's a good point. The 1958 vintage wiring is mostly two-wire cables with no ground wire. However, there are a few places where ground wires are attached to pipes. I haven't figured out why yet. The new water line under the slab is PEX. Where I'm working, I won't get shocked by electricity coming from the house, but I do need to worry about getting things that are grounded to copper pipes re-grounded.

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