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flood damaged boiler

chuck172chuck172 Member Posts: 90
My parents basement was flooded out and the boiler was totally submerged thanks to hurrican Irene.

It's a slantfin steam boiler. Can it be salvaged?

New oil burner, refractory, insulation, would it be worth it?


  • Any flooded boiler

    around here has to be replaced.  It's in one of the codes - National Fuel Gas Code, NFPA 54 maybe?
    Often wrong, never in doubt.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    oil or gas

    By the time you are done with parts you will probably be fairly close to the cost of a new system. What state are you (they) located in and how old is the boiler?
  • chuck172chuck172 Member Posts: 90
    how old?

    NJ, The boiler is about 6 years old.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    hard as it is

    as bad as it may be, your better off to start new..Not sure what the codes call for in your area but it could also be an insurance issue. May want to check with them prior to trying to repair it..
  • chuck172chuck172 Member Posts: 90
    No insurance here

    No insurance on this at all. Since my mother passed, the house has been vacant, and I couldn't get flood insurance.

    Since it is vacant, FEMA will not reimburse either.

    So I'm literally up the creek. My sister and I did hire a cleaning outfit to disinfect and clean out the basement.

    Hasn't anyone successfully salvaged a flooded boiler? Seems to me that insulation, refractory, and a new burner would be all I need. It has to be cheaper than a new boiler package, and installation.

    Since it is my house, and my boiler, and no insurance, isn't this an option to look into?
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    edited September 2011

    Anything is an option. Its just generally not recommended. Once it's to the block and everything is replaced, then you basicly have a new boiler. BTW, you dont need to replace the burner chasis,  just everything electrical (recommend wiring also).  Boiler jacket, insulation and chamber.. Make sure to clean and inspect the chimney also.

    BTW, I am not familiar with NJ codes so you may wish to check with a local inspector to be sure before doing anything. I would hate to see you  spend money and have them shut you down later...
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    You have no choice

    FEMA and the Gas Associations state that replacement only on any equipment that has been flooded including washer, dryers, water heaters etc.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    edited September 2011
    It's oil

    This gentleman's boiler is oil Tim. Not sure if FEMA is a factor in this (since they will not assist in covering it since it was unoccupied). Or local code like I mentioned previously..
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,930
    Not the best way to go

    But I've done it many times over the years,I'd replace burner and any controls that got wet and refractory,the insulation will dry out real fast once the burner lights off and a little turtle wax will take care of the jacket as long as it hasn't rusted
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,930
    Not the best way to go

    But I've done it many times over the years,I'd replace burner and any controls that got wet and refractory,the insulation will dry out real fast once the burner lights off and a little turtle wax will take care of the jacket as long as it hasn't rusted
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    It does not matter

    FEMA and GAMA now AHRI or something like that cover gas and oil. It has to be replaced or the contractor assumes full responsibility for any problems. The insurance companies will not cover repairs in most cases but will cover replacement.

    I can tell you from many, many years of seeing equipment flooded, repaired and then seeing it a couple of years down the road the equipment is typically in terrible shape. 
  • chuck172chuck172 Member Posts: 90

    I'm not the contractor in this matter, I'm the owner.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    problems noted

    I can understand your point Tim, problem being is when the insurance doesnt cover it, FEMA wont touch it and the customer has no choice. Manufacturer "recommends" replacing and we do if possible. If not we notify the owner in writing and replace what is needed....
  • Ed N.Y.C.Ed N.Y.C. Member Posts: 68
    What you ask

    has been done many,many, times as Robert said. Your problem is finding some one to do it and then back it.    ED N.Y.C.
  • TonySTonyS Member Posts: 849
    Yes it would be worth it

    Any good mechanic could easily rebuild your steam boiler.

    A new motor and controls on the burner and cleaning and reinstalling new refractory is not hard and is performed all the time.

    Water will not affect the cast iron block. Cost wise it will be far less than installing a new boiler.
  • Danny ScullyDanny Scully Member Posts: 603
    Gambling Man

    TonyS is a gambling man, haha. Replace the boiler, no further discussion needed.
  • peteboypeteboy Member Posts: 18
    flooded boiler

    I am in the same position as Charles 172. My brand new Thermoflo GSA boiler is about one month old. Thanks to Irene the water was about 2 feet deep in my basement. I never even paid for the thing yet. The charge bill is due any day now. The hot water heater was replaced. The boiler has only been test fired once during installation and was never even purged by the installer. I find it very, very difficult to pay twice for a new boiler. Installation was $6,200. My insurance company capped my loss at $5,000.for ALL of my damages, as this was the max on my policy.. If I need to replace the boiler, I estimate my loss at over $12,000. That does not include the basement floor that heaved and now I have a sink hole. I also live in New Jersey. My installer has not had the chance to check my boiler out as of yet as he is busy installing hot water heaters. I am totally frustrated and confused as to my course of action. NJ has been approved for help from FEMA and I have registered. I know that I am very lucky compared to others in my area but still am very frustrated. If I submitted pictures would in help in deciding what to do?

    Thank you for any help you can offer

  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    I am not going to

    start giving advice to homeowners to repair a boiler that has been flooded and have someone overcome by Carbon Monoxide. Change the equipment that is all there is to it and be done with it. I have only been doing this for 50 years so I am just learning!
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,530

    Long ago I was renting an apartment; i.e., I was the one paying for a place to live.

    An insurance company said I should get tenant's insurance to cover my stuff. I.e., if the building burned down and destroyed everything except me, it would pay for my stuff, but not the building. They gave  a form to figure out the value of my stuff and I was astounded. Lots of books, Lots of records, stereo stuff. It added up to a year's pay or something like that.

    Now that I own a house, I have much higher limits. When I figure my computers, stereo equipment, the value of the house, some art work, irreplacable books, and so on, it comes out to a lot. Now if I include my fancy mod-con, remodeled kitchen and all new appliances, ... it gets to a lot very fast. And you pretty much better insure it for what the insurance company says is full value, because if half it is destroyed by something covered, and you insured for only half the value, you will get only half the loss back. And if you actually want to get replacement value and not depreciated value, you have to tell them that and they will charge a higher premium. I have a few photographs by famous photographers and most of the photographers are now dead. Replacement value costs so much that I do not insure the photographs at all. So if they are burned up, I would probably get around $0.01 each even if they are worth many thousands each. Likewise, I wonder what an insurance company thinks my 3 year old boiler is worth, depreciated. I am not in the trade, but I doubt there is a "blue book" like there is for cars to get its value. Betcha they depreciate as fast as new cars though.

    I am really sorry for the loss of a boiler that they felt was insured for so little. It really sucks. I really hate insurance companies. A friend of mine hates them even worse. He bought a new car and as he was driving it off the dealer;s lot into a street, he stepped on the brakes because cars were coming on the road. Unfortunately, the dealer had not done the dealer prep they charged him for, because there was no brake fluid in there, so he rolled out into traffic. He was not killed, but his car was totalled. Only then did he find out that his insurance company was the same as the one that insured the dealer. So the insurance company admitted liability on the part of my friend, So his company had to pay the damage to the car that hit him, but would not pay for the damage to his car. He had to pay off the car even though he had not driven it even 100 feet. This was over 40 years ago, so I hope insurance laws are different now, but somehow I doubt it.
  • peteboypeteboy Member Posts: 18
    flood damaged boiler

    Tim, I humbly respect your advice. Thank you very much. After all, you are the expert.

  • peteboypeteboy Member Posts: 18
    flood damaged boiler

    Tim, I humbly respect your advice. Thank you very much. After all, you are the expert.

  • TonySTonyS Member Posts: 849

    Please explain to me what is wrong with stripping a cast iron boiler to its block and cleaning it. Then installing all new factory fit refactory set, new fiberglass in the panels(if your unable to dry and use the existing) and then install a new or rebuilt burner with new pressuretrol. Yes you may have been doing this for 50 years but I am close with 32 years. I am not telling the homeowner to do this himself, but to hire a professional.

    So if you would... please tell me specifically where this carbon monoxide is going to come from. Nothing vague Tim, just the cold hard facts about what could go wrong.

    I have pressed quite a few sectional boilers together and then assembled them completely as I am sure many here have so feel free to tell me exactly what will go wrong. Also Tim, I watched FEMA perform during Katrina, they add no validity or weight to your argument.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    Here is the letter

    that comes out from GAMA now AHRI everytime there is a flood.

    GAMA-An Association of Appliance & Equipment Manufacturers

    2107 Wilson Boulevard' Suite 600 • Arlington, VA 22201 • Phone: (703) 525-7060' Fax: (703) 525-6790' [u][/u]



    Contact: Mike Blevins

    Phone: (703) 525~7060 x235 Email:



    Arlington, Virginia, July 14, 2004-With heavy rains bringing the possibility of severe flooding, it is important to remember that all flood-damaged plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical appliances and related systems should be replaced, rather than repaired. This warning was issued today by GAMA, the national trade association representing manufacturers of appliances, components and related products used in space heating and water heating, commercial food service and power generation. The association also recommended that all work on flooded equipment be performed by a qualified, licensed contractor, not by homeowners.


    The GAMA warning stems from past reports of accidents resulting from improper do-it­yourself repairs of flood-damaged appliances. One homeowner, for example, suffered severe burns in a flash fire that occurred when he tried to re-light the pilot on his flooded gas water heater. The association stresses that not only gas equipment is at risk but also units using oil or electricity as the energy source.

    "Controls damaged by floodwaters are extremely dangerous," notes GAMA President Evan R. Gaddis. "Attempts to use equipment with defective gas or oil control devices can result in fires, flashbacks or explosions. And in the case of electrical appliances, the result can be injury or even death from a powerful electric shock." The GAMA official noted that devices at risk include water heaters, furnaces, boilers, room heaters and air conditioners.

    The association stresses that the repair of flooded appliances and related systems (including damaged venting and electrical connections) is not a job for the do-it­yourselfer, no matter how skilled. This is particularly true of control valves, according to the GAMA official. These components are manufactured to extremely close tolerances. Once submerged in floodwaters, they must be replaced. Field repairs should never be attempted by the homeowner.

    Even when controls appear to be operative, the unit should not be used after floodwaters recede. "It may work for a while," Mr. Gaddis explains, "but it will deteriorate over time."

    "It might take a week, a month or even a year, but once any control has been under water it presents a serious hazard ... fire or explosion in the case of gas controls, fire or shock in the case of electric equipment."

    Because so many things can go wrong as a result of floodwaters, it's usually cheaper, and always safer, to replace rather than repair, Mr. Gaddis said. "You can have a control valve replaced but there may be damage to other parts of the unit, like venting, piping, burners and insulation. There are just so many things that can go wrong, the wise choice is always to start over with new equipment," the GAMA president declared.

    In some instances, government aid may be available to help consumers finance the replacement of flood-damaged heating equipment. For information, homeowners should contact any of the offices of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), set up to help flood victims.


  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    edited September 2011
    Tony I really do

    not understand why you and I seem to from time to time get into these little debates. Do whatever you want to do just don't expect me to give advice which may create a safety issue.

    I am sure you are a very talented and experienced technician. That is the case with many who choose to post here.

    We do however have a large number of homeowners who also post here. They are looking for help most of the time and would never undertake repairs on their equipment. Then again you never know.

    I myself repaired and refurbished many boilers and furnaces that got flooded when I lived in South Western PA (Johnstown Flood area). This started when I worked for a heating company at age 13 until I joined the Navy in 1957 at the age of 17. It was also gas company policy to do so when I worked for them starting in the 1960's. The repair process continued from then until 1976. A flooding situation in 1976 caused a change to that policy when two different plumbing/heating contractors after refurbishing two different boilers had an explosion on one and the other sent two people to the hospital with Carbon Monoxide poisoning

    I was promoted into management in 1976 and was responsible for the conduct and training of 105 personnel. After much research and many conferences with over 30 boiler and furnace companies it was determined to no longer repair but replace flooded equipment.I trusted the expertise of the many engineers and company reps who strongly opposed repair. Now you may argue here that all they wanted to do was sell equipment, that was perhaps part of it.

    The final decision was taken out of my hands by the legal department. They determined that the company would no longer repair but replace.

    This eventually became policy in the gas industry in 1981.

    In recent years when flooding occurs the letter I posted above gets re-issued and up dated. I will have to search the Internet for a later version the last one I have in my files is 2004. I do however know this is still policy.

    I have taken my stand and it is a safe one - repair if you will but be aware of repercussions

    It is also the case Tony that perhaps not all techs are as thorough and careful as you are. They may not be willing to put the time or the labor into the repair process like you are willing to do. That means that they may leave something unsafe.

    The CO incident I mentioned above was the result of water getting into the gas valve causing the valve seat to open too far when activated by the servo regulator which was sensing down stream pressure through the internal sensing port from the water in the manifold. This caused an increase in outlet gas pressure resulting in an over fired boiler making Carbon Monoxide. I could site many more incidents related to flooding causing CO after so called repairs were accomplished.

    As for FEMA I am not for or against FEMA. The fact remains until someone changes it that is who you deal with like it or not.

    If we become loose cannons and say screw the government officials who may not know what they are doing then we assume full liability. See YA IN COURT!
  • SLO-115SLO-115 Member Posts: 196
    This unit is oil fired

    Get your oil co to replace the primary, and other electrical controls. Followed by a good clean out. Replace the chamber and re-frac. Totally worth saving...., the burner assembly, fuel pump, housing will be fine. The cast on the outside doesnt mined a bit of wet.

    If it was a gas appliance id replace, most oil burners can take a wee bit of water
  • TonySTonyS Member Posts: 849
    Tim I appreciate

    your history but I am more interested in the mechanical problems that would arise. I have had large steam boilers that were still under warranty and should have been replaced, but the Factory just sent a section and a couple of push nipples. Shows you how concerned they were when they have to pay! Of course many appliances should be thrown out and I would never use a submerged gas valve but that wasn't this mans problem. He clearly stated it was a six year old, oil fired steam boiler.

    I understand many homeowners come here and I give them an answer based on my ability. I am not going to start giving information to people based on the possibility some hack may do the work. If we applied that theory to everything we do or use I wouldn't get anything repaired.  I don't enjoy arguing with you but I don't like when someone makes a statement without any proof or without at least a valid point. To just accept something without reason or question would just be ignorant and I wouldn't want an ignorant mechanic working on my boiler. I don't know what world you live in, but in mine there are allot of people just barely getting by and if I can use my skill and experience to help them SAFELY repair an aging boiler so they can feed their kids, I'm going to and I do.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,582
    Tim and Tony...

    I can see both of your points, and just wanted to throw my $0.02 worth in.

    In EVERYONES case, there is not a day that goes by, that when we cross the threshold of our offices, and head out to the field, that we DON'T expose ourselves and our customers to numerous deadly situations. It is the nature of our business, and it is DEADLY. I don't think most contractors realize how much liability they carry as baggage in their business. They look at it like it is just water pipes, and some electricity, no big deal, except that there is FUEL present, and it is virtually impossible to generate heat without producing carbon monoxide. It is the nature of our business. Personally, I am appalled at the lackadaisical attitude shown by most contractors towards this deadly gas. It's like, "If I don't acknowledge it, I am not guilty..."

    With that said, I also understand that the majority of the people reading this venue are DIY/weekend warriors, and as I have stated before, short of shutting down every Lowes/HomeDepot/Hardware store, there is no way we will ever be able to keep everyone safe. I guarantee you that even if they DID read the FEMA notice, that they will ignore it and endanger peoples lives. It is happening as I write this, guaranteed...

    Now, my interpretation of the AHRI/ GAMA letter is that there are a lot of "Should"s in it, as opposed to "SHALL"'s. It tells me that they are avoiding being sued by some sharp law type of individual for forcing people to do something that might not be necessary. One has to stop and ask, "Do these guys and the people they represent have any vested interests in selling new boilers/appliances?" I think the answer is quite obvious. I also think that their stance and position is quite clear. What is not clear, is their bottom line agenda.

    Their mission statement is "AHRI is one of the largest trade associations in the nation, representing more than 300 heating, water heating, ventilation, air conditioning and commercial refrigeration manufacturers within the global HVACR industry.

    AHRI’s 300+ member companies account for more than 90 percent of the residential and commercial air conditioning, space heating, water heating, and commercial refrigeration equipment manufactured and sold in North America.

    AHRI advocates on behalf of its members at all levels of government, working to ensure that member’s interests are included in final drafts of legislation. We also have a certification program that is relied heavily upon by regulators for accurate and unbiased evaluation of heating, water heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and commercial refrigeration equipment. Lastly, AHRI develops industry-recognized performance standards for industry equipment. These three tiers are at AHRI’s core.

    Aside from these three tiers, AHRI is viewed as a resource for industry shipment data, education and workforce information, and research. AHRI is an industry powerhouse, providing our members with one industry voice, both domestically and abroad. "

    Its pretty obvious who they represent. But if a person follows one of their members installation manuals to the T, and God forbid, something goes wrong and someone dies, or worse, do you think that they will stand next to you in a court of law, and offer legal advice/representation to defend your actions?? Don't hold your breath...

    As for Tony's stance, I don't think that he would intentionally expose himself or his customers to any deadly potentials.

    As for "Who pays for it?", if the federal government, thru FEMA, who is currently BROKE pays for it, WE ALL PAY FOR IT, as will our kids, our grand kids and our great grand kids. If it ends up being an insurance claim (doubtful unless specific flood coverage is included) we will still all pay for it in the form of increased insurance premium costs.

    I agree that ANY component, critical or not, that has been submerged, MUST BE REPLACED. But to require a perfectly good cast iron/steel vessel that has been properly cleaned, tested and set up with new critical operating equipment/refractories to be replaced is a huge waste of time, money and natural resources.

    That is my $0.02 worth... Keep the change :-)

    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.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    Well on Oil issues

    I usually look to my friend Firedragon (George Lanthier) for his take on oil related subjects. Here is his e-mail back to me.

    Hi Tim,

    Need to call you, catch up and pick your brain.


    Regardless of what others say and @ OTT and HH have some real pissers, I'm with you on oil, same as gas.

    In additionm, a full replacement, if it's insurance covered, is always the better way to go.

    Oilmen have always been stupid and cheap, but now that the 'death watch' is on even worse.


    Stay well and warmest regards,

  • Dan HolohanDan Holohan Moderator Posts: 11,877
    Oil men stupid and cheap?

    Death watch?

    We have pissers?

    Thanks for sharing this, Tim.
    Site Administrator

    [email protected]

    Hug your kids.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    If it's insured...

    That's the pissa...;)
  • Dan HolohanDan Holohan Moderator Posts: 11,877
    I would never call my friends in the oil side of the business stupid and cheap.

    I respect them for the hard work that they do under difficult conditions and circumstances. The oil heat people have been my teachers since 1970. They are my friends.
    Site Administrator

    [email protected]

    Hug your kids.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    I think

    That was more intended for the hacks in the industry Dan. I can understand both sides of the argument, and the frustration's for all involved. I have seen some of the destruction that people in my area faced and I know there are some who will suffer for along time to come. I have also seen the swath cut through area's of VT which is even worse. I do both oil and gas and will do everything in my training to make things as safe as possible. But for some, there is no choice, other than again..I'll do everything in my power to make things as safe as possible.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    edited September 2011
    George tends to speak

    his mind, I posted it as he sent it to me and I did check with him if he wanted it posted that way. Sorry I do not mean to offend just trying to get some clarity to this mess concerning flooding.

    In line with this I got a call back from a state official on my request for clarity on repair or replace. The answer is that no equipment which has been flooded can be repaired it must be replaced. I guess other states are much more flexible on this.
  • Dan HolohanDan Holohan Moderator Posts: 11,877

    but I wasn't commenting on that. I was commenting on the insult to the people in the oil-heat side of our business, and to the members of this site.

    I appreciate all that you do for others.

    The insults, however, serve no purpose and can only hurt fellow human beings, especially in these difficult times.

    Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. 
    Site Administrator

    [email protected]

    Hug your kids.
  • Dan HolohanDan Holohan Moderator Posts: 11,877
    Yes, Tim,

    I tend to speak my mind as well, which is what I'm doing here.

    We are not stupid.
    Site Administrator

    [email protected]

    Hug your kids.
  • lchmblchmb Member Posts: 2,493
    edited September 2011

    In the past I have talked with manufacturers and in the case of a cast iron block none of them felt the need to replace it. Jacket, insulation, chamber,electronic's yes. They did stress to verify that cleanout covers are replaced and the boiler completely cleaned but did not see how water could damage the cast iron, specially once reheated. I understand that it's "recommended" to simply replace the system and wont argue the benifit to it. But if you have somoene who has no other choice. Even George said, if it's insured it's the better way to go. If it's not then what?  And yes, I live in NH, there are to my knowledge no direct requirements when it comes to flooding. I'm lucky to get people to replace electronic's let alone anything else. They simply do not call, unless it doesnt refire...
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    I need to clarify some things-

    First of all we sometimes miss the fact that some non pro's have asked questions concerning their equipment. In this case it is flooded and they are looking at big expense either way. I understand all the arguments that have been given both ways and you all know how I feel.

    I brought George Lanthiers comments into the mix as I respect his knowledge of oil equipment. I do not agree with his statements about oil personnel. I have had and will continue to have a long standing good relationship with oil folks. I have often said that oil men make the best gas service men because of their vast knowledge of heating and in particular combustion issues. In fact three of those in my class next week are from a very well known oil company.

    George is George and he will have to defend his remarks as he sees fit. He chooses to not post here so I doubt we will hear from him.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,328
    A politician he ain't

    but I understand where he's coming from. I've posted plenty of pics of screwed-up oil-fired equipment here and on George's and Alan's boards, and seen plenty more posted by others. Sure, not everyone is that bad, but those who do this slipshod "work" make everyone in the business look bad, and it should be insulting to us all.

    Now back on-topic..........

    If it was flooded, it gets replaced.

    If the customer can't afford a replacement, we might look at getting someone like "Oil Heat Cares" involved. Tim, does the gas industry have something similar?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,930
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Tim McElwainTim McElwain Member Posts: 3,895
    Thanks Robert for that

    information it is very helpful.
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