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disassembly of cast iron radiators?

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I've recently started a light remodeling job for a client of mine, and one his requests is that I remove the six radiator units located throughout the house in different bedrooms, two of which are upstairs, and plug the holes in the base and floor where the penetrations come through.



As a relatively young carpenter and fairly new business owner, I've never had to deal with this issue on my own. In fact, in the seven+ years I worked for my boss (and still occasionally do) never did we even once work on a job or home that had units in it (which, in retrospect, surprises me - being on Cape Cod in MA). In other words, I'd never even had the chance to watch our plumber do this type of job.



Live and learn I suppose, but unfortunately, I included removal of the units in my bid, and now that I've won it (and cashed the deposit check), the responsibility is mine. The owner has hired a plumber, but he doesn't want the pieces - another plumber will be coming by to salvage them in the coming weeks. After speaking briefly about it over the phone, as well as discussing other details pertaining to other pieces of my proposal, I today attempted to start taking one of the upstairs units apart.



Just like other other info I've read about over the past couple weeks, he told me I could remove the four long connecting rods at the top and bottom, and split the fins apart. After trying hammer blows, demo bar pressure, and an old beat up chisel to wedge into the still VERY tight seams, I've seen no sign of any loosening. Perhaps in our quick conversation I missed a step? One thing I do still notice on the side of the unit, above the connecting rod holes, is a very large bolt head, and on the other, (I assume) a draining valve. I didn't have a socket nearly large enough to fit it, and it being after 3 pm on a Sunday, decided rather than run a 50 minute round trip to get a larger wrench, I'd wait until next weekend.



Could this be what I'm missing? If I remove that large bolt, will things come apart much easier? Also, at the bottom of the unit, will the removal of the inflow and outflow pipes and collars allow the bottoms to separate (I've already cut the pipes)?



They were manufactured by the the American Radiator Company, however I've no idea when. The odd thing - after I cut the pipes and slid the units out of the way to start patching, I pulled up the stock the original installers had seated the radiators on - and found it was plywood, leading me wonder if they were retrofitted at one point in time.



Any thoughts or suggestions would be most appreciated.



Thanks much,

Chris

Comments

  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
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    Radiator Removal:

    In over 40 years, I don't remember ever dismantling a radiator to take it out. When they were brought in, new, they were in one piece. You need a 2 wheel appliance dolly and your friend Manuel Laborour to help you get them (the radiators) down the stairs and out of the house. I have one that has big fat pneumatic tires and goes up and down stairs easily if you have someone on the lower end that knows what they are doing.

    Do you have a plan for plugging the holes in the wood floors where the pipes came through?
  • scott markle_2
    scott markle_2 Member Posts: 611
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    cast iron

    You may not find a lot of sympathy here. Most "wet heads" are fairly enamored with cast iron. We see these things as wonderful high mass radiant emitters and marvel at the raw materials and industrial mussel power that they represent.



    I'v never split radiator, but I'v seen them pressed together, there are rods that hold it all together, they must be undone, I think an appropriate wedge and a lump hammer is the tool to get things started (eye protection), its probably just fused together from ages of gentle corrosion. When you do succeed in getting them apart it's probably appropriate to pause for moment in respect for the "dead men" who built and installed these wonderful relics. Relics forced forced into unnecessary retirement by the senseless march of fashion.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,317
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    Ice is right --

    if you don't have to take them apart, for some other reason, don't try.  It is possible that someone else might want them, just as is -- but they sure won't if they're taken apart.



    They are heavy.  A good dolly and, as he says, your good friend Manuel are the way to go.



    If, however, you absolutely positively have to dissasemble them, and they have tension rods, get the tension rods out.  Lay them on their sides.  You may possibly be able to get them apart either with a wedge and a sledge hammer or with a very long pry bar (I managed one once, in desperation, with a six foot steel bar).  I have also had some success, now and then, with the spreaders sold in auto parts stores for ball joints.  In either case, you will need to work a little at the top of the fins, then a little at the bottom, and so on.



    I won't even ask why they have to come out.  Whatever is going to replace them won't work as well.



    Good luck.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • bayside_carpentry
    bayside_carpentry Member Posts: 3
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    solid old beasts indeed

    Thanks for the bit of insight guys. And I absolutely agree - the detail and craftsmanship that went into the construction of the monsters - as well as that giant boiler in the basement - is something most tradesmen seemed to have traded in for a quicker check to get to the next one, leaving quality and pride of a job well done behind.



    They are quite ornate - the exterior of these particular units are beautifully cast with decorative inlays and vine patterns. This client is attempting to free up the wall space - the system has been inactive for years - I believe since before he purchased the property; baseboard heat units were at one point installed, followed by the current system - gas fireplaces in all the rooms. After reading a bit about them (radiators), I do find it very interesting that they produce the most efficient heat of any system and had no idea that such was the case.



    The holes in the floor are much more where my expertise lies - they're pine floors (and where they penetrated baseboard, more pine). That part is already taken care of as I was able to cut the pipes and slide the radiators aside, then work new pine plugs in.



    If that's what its going to take - a bit more elbow grease - then that's what the plan is, at least for the two upstairs units. Jamie, that idea of a ball joint separator is a good call. Thanks. Indeed, heavy they are. Any idea what a typical 4-5' long unit weighs in at?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,842
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    "gas fireplaces in all the rooms"

    Are these things vented to the outside? 



    If not, they are carbon monoxide hazards, and you may want to reconsider your involvement in this project. If it was me, I'd walk.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • bayside_carpentry
    bayside_carpentry Member Posts: 3
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    venting...

    Yes, they're all correctly vented to the exterior, with the penetrations coming out of the exterior walls. Don't get the wrong idea - this isn't one of those nightmare projects where everything is a hackjob - the code enforcement around here isn't taken lightly at all.
  • VictoriaEnergy
    VictoriaEnergy Member Posts: 126
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    Reward yourself

    You might want to consider:

    1) Handling them all carefully to avoid damaging them cosmetically when you remove them from the house.  Store them carefully so any singlre one can be accsessed.

    2)Then carfully make a list showing height, width, depth, number of columns, and number of sections for each unit. 

    Take some pics and put 'em on Craigslist. 

    I've often been on the hunt for a used rad and I'm often fusterated by guys in your situation roughly handling them, storing them like cord wood, and have no idea as to the sizes and quantities of what they have. 

    Do it the right way and you'll be surprised how much they can be worth.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,752
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    Re: old cast ornate radiators

    We recycle these all the time to the next project we may be working on. We although do have a limit on the size we will handle. That usually means a 38 tall 14 section is the limit due to weight. Unless really good quite level access. Otherwise too much chance of hurting one of our guys or the property. I still remember bringing one 18 section 38 tall down the stairs from 3rd floor in this largish house. We could not use hand truck so we had like 5 guys including this 300 lb samoan helping. Ugh, not doing that again, we were all sore after that. It is all weight based to me, to safely handle so we keep all involved in good condition and protect  the property.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
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    Want the easy way?

    Email a few photos to Joel at RADIATORS@RCN.com He may be interested in them as a package and remove them too. The Cape is a bit of a drive for me but I would not mind seeing a photo or two. If you need to split them and are not saving them, yes it brings a tear to my eye, use a wedge for fire wood and a 4# hand drill. If you want to save them use four of the plastic wedges for dropping trees. two in from each side in pairs top and bottom.
    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
  • Rich Kontny_3
    Rich Kontny_3 Member Posts: 562
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    Straight Bar

      We had a school project that went from cast irom radiators to commercial fin tube. We had about 60 sizable radiators to remove. We laid down a full sheet of 3/4 plywood and tipped them on there side. Cut the drawbolts and then used an industrial grade straight bar to drop down hard between the sections and separate.



      Once they were in manageable sizes we tossed them out the windows into a dump truck. Sentiment sometimes gets in the way of practicality. How does one warranty an old radiator ? The scrap iron dealer and I have been good friends for over 40 years.
  • Rich Kontny_3
    Rich Kontny_3 Member Posts: 562
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    Straight Bar

      We had a school project that went from cast irom radiators to commercial fin tube. We had about 60 sizable radiators to remove. We laid down a full sheet of 3/4 plywood and tipped them on there side. Cut the drawbolts and then used an industrial grade straight bar to drop down hard between the sections and separate.



      Once they were in manageable sizes we tossed them out the windows into a dump truck. Sentiment sometimes gets in the way of practicality. How does one warranty an old radiator ? The scrap iron dealer and I have been good friends for over 40 years.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,317
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    Scrap metal?

    Aye, perhaps.  But I'll bet your scrap metal dealer won't give you upwards of $1,000 for an ornate cast iron radiator in good condition (i.e. never banged on or dropped).  Which, with some decent marketing (and nowadays, with Craigslist, that's not all that hard) is what you can get for them.  I don't call that sentiment -- I call it cold hard cash.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • David Sutton_6
    David Sutton_6 Member Posts: 1,079
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    . AMEN BROTHER...AMEN

    .
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
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    Rich next time you have a tear out

    Do me a favor and call a radiator dealer then call the scrap guy. See who has a better offer for you. If it is with in 100 miles of me call me.
    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
This discussion has been closed.