Plumbing Skills
This is an introduction to the materials, tools and techniques used in connecting copper pipes and the basics of installing a sink.  Practical tuition will be provided by our tutors through your classroom sessions.

Interested in a career as a plumber - click here
A day in the life of a plumbing apprentice - click here

The resources we provide on this page are linked to our Mobile Construction Classroom teaching.  The links to videos and existing websites are provided recognising their ownership and responsibility for the content.

Resources to Support Learning
Introduction to Plumbing
Plumbing is used to transport liquid for a range of applications.   In the house there are two main systems: one that brings freshwater into the house, and the other that removes waste water.  The water that comes into the house is under pressure having been pumped from the main water supply.  Whilst the waste water system works using gravity.  Plumbing includes the installation and repair of the systems that takes water to sinks, baths, dishwashers and washing machines.  Also those that are used within the heating systems or are used for waste removal.

This unit of study looks at some basic plumbing techniques: connecting copper pipes and the skills used in the installation of a sink.

Materials for Copper Pipework

Copper pipe is used for domestic plumbing pipework, normally in 15mm and 22mm diameter sizes which are usually sold in 3m or 6m lengths.

To join copper pipe you can use joins or connections such as those shown below:                                                                Tee             Coupling                Elbow



Flux Paste is spread on the area of the pipe to be soldered so that when the solder is melted it attaches more easily to the copper.  You will need a brush to apply this as it is an irritant on skin.


Solder Wire - this is a metal alloy that is melted to form a bond between two copper parts ie. the copper piping and the joint.

Tools for Copper Pipework

Blow Torch - this is used to produce a flame to heat materials with a controllable flame.  They are normally hand held and use a gas bottle for fuel.  This means that the blow torch is a 'high risk' tool because it is flammable and the nozzle will remain hot for quite some time after use.  You must therefore learn to both use and handle this tool carefully.

Learn about the blowtorch - click here

Pipe Cleaner - to prepare the pipe by cleaning it ready for soldering.

Pipe Cutter - a tool used to cut a length of copper pipe. It has a set of rollers and a cutting disc which will slice through the pipe when turned in the right direction.  The tension between the rollers and cutting disc hold it in place.  As you rotate the cutter it will start to cut the pipe.


Adjustable Pliers - these are the main tool for holding the pipe whilst it is hot.  As they are adjustable so you can use them on different sizes of piping.

Heatproof Mat - to protect surfaces from burn marks from the blow torch.

Remember you will need to think about what PPE you will need for the work you are doing, find out more here

Techniques for Copper Pipework
Once you have all the tools and materials to hand and are using the correct PPE you are ready to solder.   This is a process that you will be taught in detail through your practical sessions.  The basics are:
  • clean the pipe,
  • brush the clean surfaces wtih solder flux,
  • fit the pipe and connection together,
  • light the blow torch and adjust to get a blue flame,
  • hold the solder wire to the joint and apply heat,
  • melt the solder evenly round the joint,
  • wipe excess solder from the pipe,
  • clean the pipe with water and dry,
  • flush the pipe to clean it.

Watch this video to learn more about soldering - click here

Basic Installation Skills for a Sink

There are two basic elements of plumbing a sink: installing the taps and connecting the waste pipe.  The taps are bought with adjustable fittings and will need to be fitted onto the sink unit before connecting to the water pipes bringing both hot or cold water.  Most taps today allow the mixing of the water within the tap, however the basics are the same as installing a separate hot and cold water tap as there will be two attachments for piping.

Fitting a Tap:


  • Tap - the tap will end in a pipe which will connect to the incoming water pipe.  There will be a nut which can be unscrewed to allow the tap to be fitted to the basin and then replaced and tightened from below.
  • Tap connector - this will connect the incoming water pipe and the tap together forming a joint with a washer and nut.  The piping under a sink is often flexible for easier fitting and allow for adjustments to the position of the taps once the sink is fitted.
  • PTFE tape - this tape is used on the join of the tap connector to improve the seal of the joint making it watertight.
  • Basin wrench - a basin wrench is used to reach the nuts under the sink to tighten or loosen them during installation.
Watch this introductory video on how to install a tap - click here

Fitting the Waste Pipe:

The waste water is removed from the bottom of the sink into what is called a trap which connects it to the waste pipe.  This trap is U-shaped to hold a constant pool of water which blocks smells coming back up the waste pipe into the sink.  They come in different shapes dependent on the use and space available under the sink, bath or other appliance. The simplest mechanism by which these are fitted is with a push-fit fitting using a grab ring.  The waste piping is usually made of polypropylene.


Watch this introductory video on how to install a waste pipe - click here