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Cleaning steam pipes, sealing leaking fittings

Taylor_4
Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
No underground returns, only dry returns.

Although listening to the boiler this morning, I could swear I can hear a drip-drip *within* the boiler as it's cooling down. No signs of water outside though.

Comments

  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55


    I'd appreciate advice on cleaning the outside of steam pipes, and sealing fittings. I have an 80 yo steam system that was not well maintained. I'm on at least boiler #3, and the reason boilers don't last is because the system drinks water every day during winter time.

    Qn #1: Any good product for getting the corrosion off the outside of the pipes? This corrosion is around the fittings.

    Qn #2: Any advice on what to do with leaking fittings that I believe are the reason this system is losing water? Local supply store suggests epoxy on the fittings, any alternative ideas? Taking apart and putting back together again is not an option, some of the pipes disappear into walls and anyway I'd be dead if I tried taking apart this system with fittings welded shut by corrosion after 80 years.

    Qn #3: I've had to take apart some pipes for some framing work (sistering damaged joists). The pipe threads have paint on them after asbestos abatement and that's getting in the way of putting things back together. Any suggestions for getting paint off the pipes? Heat gun?

    Thanks for any help.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,510
    80 yo system

    the only way to repair leaks is to take joints apart and replace sections of bad pipe.leaking connections must be unscrewed and redone with teflon tape.
    have you seen steam or water coming out of these spots ?
    it may be the boiler sections leaking instead.if this the 3rd boiler in 80 yrs it may be 20-25 years old, and its time has come.
    sometimes you can detect these leaks by overfilling the system [when cold] so that the waterline is above the sections so that you will see water seeping out.
    get a copy of dan's steam book from this site so that if you need to have the boiler replaced you can be more informed.
    don't forget to re-insulate the pipes after any repairs. good luck--nbc
  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55


    Thanks for the advice. However as I said, taking apart the connections is not a realistic option. Might as well tell me to completely replace my heating system.

    I can see brown stains around the fittings where they were recently painted after asbestos removal, so I'm pretty sure that's where the water is leaking.

    The boiler is only 8 years old. It's been drinking liberally since it was installed. When I tried cleaning it, 80 years of crud ended up in the steam chamber.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,510
    renewing old pipes?

    if you do a leak test maybe with some sort sort of glow under uv light fluid [brad white had some suggestions in another post!] you may find you have only 1 leak.there are certainly methods of taking those pipes apart [like smashing the fittings] which you can learn how to do.it may not be such a big job as you think especially when compared to eventual early replacement of the boiler which has only now lived 1/4 or 1/5 of its lifespan!good luck--nbc
  • David Nadle
    David Nadle Member Posts: 624


    How did you take the pipes apart the first time if you can't take them apart now?

    I'm skeptical that you could lose enough steam through a mains leak that your boiler would require water daily, and you wouldn't see any other damage besides brown stains on the fittings. Do your mains drop down and return to the boiler under the basement floor? You might have a leak in a buried pipe.

    Otherwise, you could try brushing a surfactant leak detection fluid (soapy water) on the threads while the boiler is steaming.
  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55


    No underground mains, all above ground.

    Where I had to remove pipes for framing work, I used an angle grinder to cut up the fittings. It was a lot of work. I banged on them until my arm hurt and nothing. Put a pipe wrench on them and hammered away: nothing. Taking this system apart would be on the order of redoing my house's piping.

    I will try the bubbly water method next time it's running, thanks for the tip.
  • David Nadle
    David Nadle Member Posts: 624


    So what will you do if you find the leak?

    Not for nothing, but you could hire someone with the right tools to come in, find the leak, cut away the leaky section, and add a union and new pipe and fittings, problem solved.
  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55


    Put epoxy on it, as the plumbing supply store recommended. I was looking for alternative suggestions.

    I've given up on trying to get plumbers to return my calls. I've already had to do a lot of plumbing on my own because I can't even get an estimate out of a plumber.
  • Barbarossa
    Barbarossa Member Posts: 89
    leaks option 2

    So you are sure the leaks are not in the returns if they are underground?
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,510
    leak?--only one way to tell

    while the weather is still warm, turn off and overfill the boiler to the wet returns, and watch for leaks.
    you would be surprised how easily a pro can replace a section of pipe, and you can fetch the piece cut back at his shop, so he does'nt need his threading rig down in your basement!
    in my area i would have about 10 days more where the boiler can be left off for a day without anyone freezing.--nbc
This discussion has been closed.