Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Recourse for bad/illegal boiler install....

Maestro232
Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
Good morning.  We had a new steam boiler put in to a house that's new to us.  We just had our first boiler cleaning/checkup which we had done by a contractor who is different from the folks who did the install.  There were some things that concerned us about the installing vendor, but we didn't have reason to believe that the job itself was done incorrectly.  However, the fellow who came and did the boiler cleaning informed us that we got very snookered.  He is going to write up a full report for us, after which I'll be able to provide more details if needed, but in general he said several corners were cut, piping was done incorrectly (and in some cases not up to code says he), and a fire permit was never pulled by them (apparently also illegal in Massachusetts).



My question is what recourse is there for me in such a situation.  Is the installing company obligated to fix all known problems?  Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
«13

Comments

  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    edited March 2011
    Be careful what you wish for....

    Sticky wickets...



    Opinions are like belly buttons. Every one has one. Sometimes, they stink. Some are innies, and some are outies, but bottom line, they are all the same.



    In the eyes of the court, what was in writing (contractual proposal) is what is going to be used to determine if you got what you paid for, or not.



    As for workmanship, if the installation does not comply to the manufacturers requirements, you have a fairly decent chance of succeeding.



    As for the original installing contractor, he may not know any better. If he is worth his salt, he will recognize the errors of his ways, and may (should) correct them with no additional charge to you. I think prudence says that you must give him the chance to "make right" the errors of his ways. If he refuses, then you can start legal proceedings.



    I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on weekends, I just do a lot of expert witness work for them.



    One term that was introduced to me recently is subrogation. If you have to fix the system out of your own pocket, then so be it. You have the right to ask the original contractor to pay you for those fixes, assuming he decided not to take you up on your offer to make it right the second time around. If he refuses to pay, then you have the option of pursuing him through legal channels.



    In any case, document EVERY thing in writing, with confirmations (signed receipt of mailings etc) to enhance your chances of winning. In the eyes of the court system, if its not in writing, it doesn't exist.



    A good contractor will take care of it, because it is much less ex$pen$ive than legal pur$uit$...



    We all make mistakes. It just a matter of how we handle those mistakes that will make us or break us.



    JMPO



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    thanks...

    Thanks. That is helpful advice.  So, to summarize, bring the facts of what was done incorrectly/illegally to the contractor and ask for them to fix it.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    Check the installation manual

    I'd just like to add that you should check the installation manuals piping diagram to see what he might have done wrong as far as the boiler manufacturer is concerned. If the boiler is not piped per the manufacturers piping diagram, your warranty might be null and void.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    pics.

    Post some pic's of the boiler and close boiler piping.  
  • meplumber
    meplumber Member Posts: 678
    Every state is different.

    In some states, there are state inspectors that get involved with these matters and in other states there are local inspectors.



    If you were in Maine, I would tell you to call the State Fuel Board to start the process.  They and you would initiate the resolution with an inspection, preferably with the installing contractor present.  After the inspection, the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) would order the installing contractor to correct the difficiencies.  If he did not then he would face penalties.



    In the state of Mass, things are slightly different but not a lot.  There are a few guys on here from your area.  I am sure they can point you toward the proper agency.



    As Mark stated, give the installer a chance to fix it, but should he resist, time to call in the State or local inspectors.  They have the authority necessary.



    Good Luck.
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    installation

    You said you are from Mass, so am I. The place to start is with the Fire Prevention officer in your town. There are a lot of codes/laws here in Mass that need to be followed, and obtaining the proper permit is on that list. Before the work began, there should have been an installation permit obtained, and when all work is done, and up to today's codes, they would file the completion. A site visit is scheduled with fire prevention to sign off if all is OK, or fail it if they have not complied. Obviously the installer is either not licensed, or doesn't want his work checked. There is something also to be said about sour grapes. It may not be as pretty as what your serviceman's work is, but it has been working?  If it has been functioning, then maybe it isn't all that "incorrectly" installed, but for insurance and safety reasons, the installer needs to get it compliant and permitted, or he should hire someone who can at his expense.
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    and echo

    post pics. It can and may not conform to manufactures recommended installation specs. This IS the place to confirm that. Here you will find the best steam installers/repair/service guys around at your finger tips. I have only a few steamers left in my customer base, so I defer to them on the install.  
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    edited March 2011
    ok..found out more

    hello everyone.  I'm finding out more of the story now.  I'll post some pics tomorrow hopefully, but what I can say is that we've verified with the fire dept that a fire permit WAS NOT pulled.  The service man talked through with me on the phone the various problems as he saw it.  Some were just bad work, but he says there were some things that are flat out incorrect and even some that are illegal.



    Here's what we're looking at so far as allegations, and I'll post pics to get input....

    1. high pressure release valve is illegal as installed

    2. no fire permit pulled

    3. a particular piece of piping is coming off the vertical pipe that comes out of the boiler instead of off the main pipe, supposedly causing some of my poor running problems.

    4. they never set the pressure after install so it was almost up to 15 psi

    5. they were supposed to put in an indirect tank, but according to the serviceman, they installed something he called a "tankless booster."  I'll post a pic, but he told me he was sure they didn't put an indirect in.

    6. not that anything can be done about it, but I was apparently overcharged by about $2500.  Live and learn.



    I've attached the specs for how it's supposed to be done, and something akin to what they did, but this is from memory without the pics available to me now.
  • heatboy
    heatboy Member Posts: 1,468
    edited March 2011
    x

    heatboy



    The Radiant Whisperer





    "The laws of physics will outweigh the laws of ecomomics every time."
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,728
    edited March 2011
    Looks like a Smith 8 series

    and here are some pics of some of our installs using this boiler. These were installed with the Carlin EZ-Gas power gas burner. If Charlie from WMass shows up on this thread, maybe he'll post some of his, too, which are quite well done. 



    Note that the 6-section 8 series must use two risers from the boiler to the header, but the 3, 4 and 5-section units can be installed with just one riser.



    How about some pictures of your boiler?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    tankless booster?

    OK, no access to pics yet, but can someone shed light on whether a "tankless booster" can in any way be conceived as an "indirect water heater"
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,728
    Does it use

    an actual tank, rather than just a coil inside the boiler? 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    y?

    .
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    Some thoughts by the numbers

    1. high pressure release valve is illegal as installed

    A. This is binary, a go/no-go situation. Self evident and in your favor. What was the valve pressure on the tag? Should be 15 psi at most. These are not adjustable.





    2. no fire permit pulled

    A. Ditto, see above.





    3. a particular piece of piping is coming off the vertical pipe that

    comes out of the boiler instead of off the main pipe, supposedly causing

    some of my poor running problems.

    A. If installed as you say, this common attempt at an equalizer gets a FAIL. As your posted manufacturer diagram shows, the steam rises and, like a judo move, takes excess water carried with it, past the system branch feeds. In your situation, your piping is asking that moisture to make a hard right turn. I can see no reason why that would ever happen. Wet steam is the result.





    4. they never set the pressure after install so it was almost up to 15 psi

    A. That is the safety valve limit. At what pressure was that tagged, again?

    A pound or less would be nice.



    5. they were supposed to put in an indirect tank, but according to the

    serviceman, they installed something he called a "tankless booster." 

    I'll post a pic, but he told me he was sure they didn't put an indirect

    in.

    A. A "tankless booster", if it is what I think, is just a storage tank. (HTP makes these). It is designed only to store heated water heated elsewhere and does not have an internal heat exchanger.





    6. not that anything can be done about it, but I was apparently overcharged by about $2500.  Live and learn.



    A. Depending on how that was derived, yes, there is something you can do about that. It may involve small claims court but if exercised, it would prevent you from other recourse.  The limit in MA was raised to $7,000 as the maximum base claim. There are conditions such as consumer fraud, where additional damages may increase this.



    I am not a litigious person by nature, but if you think you have a case (and with documentation to back it up, it seems that you do), by all means avail yourself. That is what Small Claims is for.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    edited March 2011
    Tankless booster

    Per my previous response, but to break it out, a "tankless booster", if the term is the same I would use, refers to an insulated storage tank without a heat exchanger. The tank water is heated elsewhere and a shuttle pump "charges" the tank.



    HTP (the SuperStor people) make these. The benefit and intent is to give you volume to draw upon so that your boiler does not fire at every rinsing of a glass.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Steve Whitbeck
    Steve Whitbeck Member Posts: 669
    Tankless booster

    I think he means a Tankless heater. It is nothing more than a coil inserted into the boiler that the domestic water flows through.

    This type of water heater demands that the boiler maintain constant temperature.
  • Chris S
    Chris S Member Posts: 177
    recourse

    Unfortunately many of us have been in this situation, from both sides.  as mentioned earlier, we all make mistakes.  Some of us fix them...

    I was involved last year as a witness for the plaintiff in a lawsuit between a homeowner and a contractor, something I really did not want to do, but I really felt for the homeowner for some of the things they had to endure.  Unfortunately the damaged party inevitably questions, and criticizes every detail of their bad experience.  Some of it being justified, some of it just being picky, and some of it should have been obvious before the deal was made,

    After sitting with the judge for 7 hours, several terms kept coming up.

    "According to code"  if the installation was not according to code, it must be corrected.

    "According to manufacturers installation instructions"  same as according to code

    "Industry Standards"  this is a little bit of a grey area unless you can provide an industry accepted document of some sort.  The installer will say " that's the way we always do it" you must be able to show what the industry standard is.

    "Best practices"  The engineer on the case I was on kept saying this, but the judge would not hold the plaintiff to this standard as he had never made any promise to this effect

    My best advice, go to court only as a last resort, and keep it in small claims if possible.  My side won their case, but had spent so much money on legal fees, engineering reports, and testimony ( I was the least expensive one in the room at $ 75 /hr.) that it was a hollow victory.  Make sure your system is safe and operating to it's potential,and put it behind you.

    As to being overcharged,  unfortunately you have no claim there, unless you hired the contractor without a written contract, which is illegal in many areas.  If you agreed to the price, then thats what it was worth.

    Just as the case I described was concluding I was asked to get involved in a similar situation in my own town where mistakes were made by many, possibly even local inspectors.  The contrator being someone I casually know.  I declined that one, they found someone else from a neighboring county to testify.
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    pictures as promised...

    pictures as promised.  Still not sure if the tankless coil with booster to SuperStor can be considered an "Indirect Water Tank", which is what we had asked for.  Thoughts?



    Here's the pics...
  • David Sutton_6
    David Sutton_6 Member Posts: 1,079
    Hmmmmm

    Seems the installer requires just a bit more training,



     But to the problems, You need to have someone in your area make some changes, near boiler piping needs to be removed and properly repiped, the ball valve needs to be removed from the relief valve, You have a aqua bank type sysem for your domestic hot water, these are ok but still need to maintain temp in the boiler, A inderect would allow the boiler to cool down between calls to reheat, so you will still have higher fuel bills



    . What town are you in ??
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Piping Photo

    I "tweeked" your piping photo a bit so the details are easier to see.

    - Rod
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    just curious

    Did you get a detailed contract on the install of this system? As other's have stated, you need to repipe it and also remove the shutoff from the P.R.V. Also would look into having a draft damper installed and on that note have your chimney inspected to make sure it has no issues.
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    edited March 2011
    here's the contract...

    I live in Ware.  I've attached the contract.  So...sorry that I'm not getting it, but is a superstor indirect domestic hot water tank-aquabooster a real thing?  It sounds like you guys are saying they didn't give me an indirect.
  • MikeyB
    MikeyB Member Posts: 696
    edited March 2011
    Relief valve

     Shut that boiler down and have that ball valve before the relief valve removed !
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    It seems

    that the contract says all permits would be pulled. Mmmmm.



    Too many thing wrong with the install- I totally agree with MikeyB- there should be NO valve between your safety devices (relief valve in this case), or controls. Bomb waiting to happen especially in that it was left cranked up to 15 PSI.



    That you live in Ware is good- Not to exclude anyone, I would highly recommend Dave Sutton who is in that area if it comes to getting the work done reliably. (OK, Mr. Boston-Centric here maybe thinks everyone outside of 495 are neighbors, but hey :)



    When the contractor says "indirect storage aquabooster", I see a mixing of terms. From what I see in the photograph, I only see domestic piping going to the tank so suspect it is just the coil booster. Were there a true indirect, there would be domestic AND boiler water going to it, with a circulator in the boiler water side. You just seem to have a bronze charging pump, probably a Taco 006B.



    It MAY well be an indirect with the boiler piping connections unused and just not visible in the photograph.  If no other connections, you have storage only.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    Rod, would you

    "tweak" my photo to give me hair? :)

    (kidding!)

    I always appreciate how you not only take the time to explain the corrections in detail but also reformat pictures as you do.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,728
    edited March 2011
    That looks like a SuperStor Contender

    which is an Indirect, since it has its own coil. So you in effect have two coils- one in the boiler, one in the SuperStor. Is there an expansion tank and safety valve in the piping between the boiler and the indirect?



    I'll second the recommendation for David Sutton. He's one of the best.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Mike Kusiak_2
    Mike Kusiak_2 Member Posts: 604
    Curious...

    Are you having any actual problems with the operation of the system before the errors were brought to your attention? The near boiler piping is definitely not "by the book" but it appears that you have a counterflow system and the drip line on what might be considered a "header" could return some of the carryover water to the boiler. Do you have issues with water hammer in the counterflow mains?



    The shutoff valve before the pressure release valve would be my main immediate concern.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    Ummm yeah....

    You're NEVER supposed to put a valve between the boiler and the pressure relief valve. Not good news for the ability/knowledge/accountability of your contractor. Even the least trained boiler inspector would have caught that and turned him down.



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • David Sutton_6
    David Sutton_6 Member Posts: 1,079
    Thanks guys !

    i would be willing to look at it,  i sent him a PM, i did a few jobs in Ware. Frank i love those Carlin burners !  nice huh. as always great looking work !!



    David

    aka DrPepper
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    Yes, there is a safety valve

    There appears to be a safety valve for the tank.  There is also a "taco circulator"  both indicated on the image below.
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    serious water hammer

    Yes, I've had serious water hammer.  But I didn't suspect it was their install because I had never used the old system and I used wood heat through most of the winter until I ran out...so I was just trying things like changing radiator vents and pitching the radiators, etc....   but serious water hammer.   The guy who came and alerted me to the problems said the water hammer was DEFINITELY because of the way they piped it.
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    so another question...

    So, there are a few recommendations to have someone come and fix things.  But I'm trying to figure out how this works in light of the contractor not meeting the terms of the contract.  Shouldn't they be on the hook for the cost?  I'm concerned that they won't do it right, but then again, why would I have to pay for their contractual lapses?  Guidance?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,728
    Not what I meant

    It looks like there is a coil in the tank and another coil in the boiler. If that's the case, the water in the pipes between the two does not mix with the water in the tank or in the boiler, so the safety valves on the tank and boiler could not release excess pressure in the pipes between the two. This could be dangerous.



    Call David Sutton. He can tell you for sure if this is a problem, and straighten it out.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,728
    First thing to do

    is correct the safety issues. I don't think you want the original installer to do this. Get that much done so no one will get hurt. Then go after the original installer. 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    I think...

    that you MUST give the original contractor a shot at making it right. If he refuses, or if he fails, then you are clear to take the situation into your own hands, and optionally, pursue him through legal channels.



    I'd recommend you contact a lawyer near you who has a better handle on the laws affecting your state.



    The safety valve is an egregious act, and I would give the contractor 24 hours to make at least that, and any other serious safety violations (lack of draft damper) right. If he fails, then hire it out to the contractor of your choice. Hopefully, he will do the right thing and save you and himself a whole lot of heart ache and monetary losses.



    As I said, document EVERYTHING.



    Date, time who you spoke with, what was promised, when they arrived, what they did, so on and so forth.





    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    That's how I'm leaning

    I'm leaning this way.  I'm hoping either the owner himself or someone else that works for him actually knows steam inside and out unlike the guys who did the install.  I'll give them a chance to make it right.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    Brad I thought it was

    128. You clearly are more open minded than many eastern Mass folks! Including my relatives. My concern with this job is many I see through out the pioneer valley are just like this. When the horse has already left the barn. Cosing the door does little good. Smith only calls for a 2" header but they have exceptions for counter flow systems like every other boiler manufacturer.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Maestro232
    Maestro232 Member Posts: 69
    Here's what the original vender says....

    So the original vender came and here's where we are at....

    1. He says regarding the indirect tank thing that he has a coil in the boiler being used as a heat exchanger, using the taco to move the water.  He insists that this is a good way to go.  The tank water is totally separate from the boiler water.  It just moves through the coil that's sitting in the boiler, and the boiler water heats it up as it passes through the coil.  It sounds reasonable to me.  Should I be concerned about this setup?

    2. He insists that it was not a big deal to put the valve there in between the pressure release but changed it.

    3. He doesn't see why his piping, and attempt at an equilizer is wrong but he is willing to change it.  But to what?  Can someone give me a very specific explanation of why the boiler piping is not good and what it needs to be changed to?
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    Get the installation manual

    Smith has it on line. The piping that connects the boiler and indirect NEEDS a pressure relief valve. If the coil gets too hot and the water is not circulating because the Indirect is satisfied for temperature the piping or the coil can explode ! water expands 1,700 times in volume when going from liquid to steam. This can kill or maim a person that is unlucky enough to be near it. It can blow metal through walls! The indirect piped off the coil is just a waste of heat and equipment. You are transferring heat to transfer it again. No he does not know steam if he is asking whats wrong with his install.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
  • Paul Fredricks_3
    Paul Fredricks_3 Member Posts: 1,557
    Some thoughts

    I read through this thread, and maybe I missed some thing, but:



    If it's a Smith 8 boiler, per manufacturers installation manual it doesn't need a draft regulator. A call to Smith will tell you to add one if the draft is high.



    From what i can tell on the internet, all these superstors look pretty much alike. If it's an aqua booster it doesn't have a coil in it, uses the coil in the boiler, and needs a 15 psi pop safety valve on the boiler, and a T & P valve on the tank, which they appear to have.
This discussion has been closed.