What is Soldering?
Soldering is the process of fusing two pieces of metal or two metal tubes together using solder which is a filler alloy. Solder has a lower melting point than the metal pipes, usually copper. As it cools it bonds with the two pieces of metal pipes essentially creating one pipe.
In soldering, the copper tubes do not melt themselves, only the filler or solder. Soldering is an ancient and trusted practice in the history of metalwork, which has been practised for thousands of years, possibly before 4000 BC.
When done correctly, these copper joints can remain leak-proof and in solid condition for more than 70 years.
What is Sharkbite?
Sharkbite is the brand name for a line of push-to-connect fittings that have been in the market since 2004. Push-to-connect fittings have become a popular replacement for soldered joints in plumbing today.
The ease, convenience, and versatility of Sharkbite have made it a preferred plumbing solution to copper joints with both professionals and amateurs opting for Sharkbite.
Compared to soldered joints, Sharkbite has only been around for sixteen years and is yet to be truly graded for longevity.
Sharkbite Fittings Vs Soldering: Which is Better?
Plumbing is an integral part of the anatomy of a building. Innocent miscalculations or reckless installations could cause untold damage with lethal and even fatal consequences. You must weigh your options carefully and engage the help of professionals to better advise you on which options best suit your plumbing needs. Factors to consider are: –
Strength and Reliability
Between sharkbite fittings and soldering, solder has been a reliable solution for a significantly longer time. Most professionals are familiar with soldering and attest to the durability of soldered joints.
Additionally, the introduction of lead-free solders to replace lead solders, due to the health hazards posed by lead is a positive for soldered plumbing.
Leaks encountered in soldered joints are likely the result of poor workmanship or damage to the pipes after installation which can happen.
Solder is the recommended plumbing solution for underground, deep walls, and outdoor permanent connections. Sharkbite is better for connections that are accessible and easy to workaround.
Sharkbite fittings are quickly replacing solder as the choice for plumbing. With multiple solutions for different plumbing fixtures and the ease of connecting pipes, it is easy to see why they are currently so popular.
Sharkbite has gained the confidence of many professionals and guarantees a warranty of 25 years. Installed properly, Sharkbite performs well and does not leak providing a reliable seal. Whether Sharkbite can withstand decades of pressure and completely replace solder, time will tell.
Ease of Installation
Soldering is a process that takes a learning curve to perfect and though you can learn just about anything online today, soldering is one of the techniques that should not be attempted by a novice. Aside from the very real danger posed by the use of a blowtorch, the resultant joint is not likely to be properly fixed and leaks will occur. It is best to engage the services of a professional if you go for solder.
Sharkbite on the other hand has an easy-to-install process given the instructions are followed to the letter. Prepare your pipes by making the needed cuts and sanding down the ends that need joining. The tools and instructions you must use for this come with the packaging and are straightforward.
Connecting the pipes involves a fairly simple process of pushing your pipe or tube through a collet in the brass body that holds a ring of teeth. Once the tube is pushed through, the teeth clamp down on the tube holding it in place. There is an O-ring made of rubber that provides a water-tight seal preventing leaks.
In minutes, and without the added hassle of melting metal into place, you have a water-proof connection ready for use.
Sharkbite is definitely the better option as far as easy installation is concerned.
For most homeowners, it may be more convenient to use Sharkbite fittings over solder for certain needs. If for instance, you intend to install a new hot water line or replace faulty tubing under the sink, Sharkbite will give you the more convenient solution since these one-time projects do not need you to hire soldering professionals.
Sharkbite is also a more versatile option since their fittings can be used with PEX, PVC, or copper tubes making it unnecessary to replace entire plumbing systems. Solder only works with copper tubes which may be limiting in the case of singular jobs and minor repairs.
Location of Repairs
When deciding whether to go for solder or Sharkbite to do your repairs, it is integral you understand the location of your repair work as both will give different results. Sharkbite is rated as a good fix for hard-to-reach areas but the failure rate for push-to-connect fittings is higher than that of soldered joints so inaccessible areas require careful consideration.
Solder requires some room to maneuver and in tight spaces, a solder may run into a disadvantage that a push-to-connect fitting could solve. If soldering cannot be achieved without considerable demolition of a wall or a floor, a push-to-connect piping solution may work.
Sharkbite fittings have the added advantage of being rotatable. Once affixed, the tube can be rotated to achieve a tighter and better hold. Solder joints are firmly held in place once the soldering process is done. It allows no further movement and in a tight space, little movements and adjustments could make a world of difference.
Solder can be tricky for repairs though eventually, it is likely to hold better and for longer if it can be done properly.
On the whole, Sharkbite is more expensive than solder.
Verdict: Sharkbite Vs Solder
Sharkbite is new, versatile, easy to install, and continues to innovate. It is already a popular choice with many for these reasons. Solder is tried and tested, and consistently reliable. Once installed appropriately, a century worth of value is assured.
Both are value options but solder still outweighs Sharkbite for value and overall performance currently.