Blowtorches are often used to heat up metal pipes so that they will solder more easily. You might have seen a plumber use this technique at your house, or maybe you’ve read about it in an article online.
But what happens if you try to use a blowtorch on a chrome pipe? Will it work the same way or will using any type of flame near or on the surface of chrome cause it to discolour and corrode?
In this article, we are going to cover whether you can use a blowtorch on chrome and if not, we will explain the best way to get the soldered finish you require.
What is Chrome?
Chrome or Chromium is a shiny metal finish that is often used in items such as car bumpers and bathroom fixtures.
Although chrome is a metal, you will never find it in pure solid form. When you hear that something is ‘made of’ chrome – what they really mean to say is that there’s a thin layer of plating on the object.
Almost anything can be chrome-plated, but some common materials often used are aluminium, brass, copper, and steel.
Can You Have Chrome Heating Pipes?
Yes, chrome heating pipes are becoming more and more popular these days. Chrome makes a great alternative to painting your pipes or even hiding them completely.
Chrome heating pipes are just copper pipes that have been dipped and finished with chromium, giving them a stunning silvery look.
Can You Bend Chrome Pipes?
Although chrome pipes can be bent, we do not recommend bending them as bending often causes the chrome plating on the inside of the bend to become distorted.
Chrome will usually be fine with shallow bends, but it makes more sense if you need a 90-degree bend to use a chrome-plated elbow joint instead.
Can You Use a Blowtorch on Chrome?
In the simplest terms, no you cannot use a blowtorch on chrome. The metal coating is simply too thin to withstand serious heat and will get damaged if exposed to it for an extended period of time.
If your goal is to solder two pieces of chrome together – then there is a way to do it that involves a little heat but does not involve using a blowtorch.
How to Solder Chrome
If you are looking to join 2 pieces of chrome, truth is that the solder will not stick to the chrome itself so read on for our technique for soldering chrome.
What You Need
- Chrome pipe
- Chrome Elbow Fitting
- Heat gun
- Stanley Blade
- Small Paintbrush
- Wire Wool
- Liquid Solder
Step 1 – Mark Your Pipe
Insert your pipe into the elbow joint and then pull it out again by about 3mm. When you have done this, make a small score in the chrome where the pipe meets the joint.
By pulling the pipe out before scoring ensures that you will get the finish that you require. Score in the wrong place and that length of pipe could be ruined.
Note: Be careful not to score the chrome too deep – just enough so you can see it.
Step 2 – Remove the Chrome
Now take your wire wool and remove all the chrome from the end of the pipe below your score mark.
The chrome will have to be completely removed and the pipe polished back to the bare copper.
Also, rub the wire wool around the inside of the fitting to ensure that it is clean and only bare copper is exposed too.
Step 3 – Apply Liquid Solder
Generously apply your liquid solder all the way around the exposed copper at the end of your chrome pipe.
You can do this with a small paintbrush or something similar.
Step 4 – Solder
Now insert your pipe into the fitting and using a heat gun, heat the joint until you begin to see the solder coming out of the joint all the way around.
It is possible to use a blowtorch here but do not apply the flame directly to the chrome. The torch must be kept far enough away to provide heat but not too much.
Step 5 – Clean
As we mentioned earlier, the solder will not stick to the chrome so any solder that has become visible at the bottom of the joint will easily rub off.
Once this is done, you should have a nice clean soldered joint with no copper visible at all.
Can You Use Compression Fittings on Chrome?
Yes, compression fittings can be used on chrome. Personally, I follow the same process as if I was soldering and will remove the chrome plating before using compression fittings with chrome.
Also, if you choose not to, it is a good idea to make sure that the olives you are using are brass and not copper as the copper ones are a little tough and has a hard time biting into the chrome plating.
As you can see, it is possible to solder chrome pipes although the chrome does have to be removed from the area you are soldering first.
As for whether or not you can use a blowtorch on chrome, the answer is no, the chrome plating will not hold up for any length of time when extreme heat is applied. Using a blowtorch on chrome will only end up damaging the plating or tarnishing the shine which cannot be fixed.
Plumbing Wizard Tips
“Use a heat gun and liquid solder when working with chrome pipes!”
“Do not apply your blowtorch directly onto chrome as it will ruin it and be a costly mistake!”
“Make sure all of the chrome has been removed before attempting to solder – solder will not stick to chrome!”
“Solder chrome instead of using compression joints – why go to the expense of using chrome and then having bulky elbows!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Can chrome be soldered?
Chrome cannot be directly soldered. To solder chrome pipes, the chromium plating will need to be removed and the solder applied directly onto the copper!”
Can I have chrome heating pipes?
Yes, heating pipes are now available with a chrome-plated finish. Chrome heating pipes are just copper pipes that have been finished with chromium for added shine.
Do chrome pipes look good?
Yes, having chrome pipes looks great and means that they can become a feature of your room rather than something you want to keep hidden.
I’m Lee the Plumbing Wizard. I’ve been a plumber for over 40 years and have seen it all. People used to call me a magician because I could fix things so easily – hence the name Plumbing Wizard.
I’m always happy to help out a fellow tradesman or woman, so if you need any advice or just someone to talk plumbing with, don’t hesitate to get in touch!